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Monday, August 30, 2010

From Luke's Inbox: Dragons and Wizards and Demons, Oh My!

Hi, just wondering how you can label yourself as a "Christian homeschool provider" when you sell read-alouds with dragons and wizards in them? In the Bible we are told that the dragon is Satan (Revelation 12:9), and we are not to make our son or our daughters to pass through these things--including wizards, witches, etc (Deut 18:10-12, Isaiah 8:19-20). I couldn't possibly purchase a program KNOWING there are books feeding my precious children with such demonic aspects.

Thanks for writing! From the sounds of it, Sonlight may not be a good fit for you and your family. If you haven't already, I recommend you read through the 27 Reasons NOT to Buy Sonlight and Why Sonlight Uses Certain Books that Some Homeschoolers Won't Touch. Those two articles will give you a little more insight into where we are coming from. However, they do not address your specific concerns, and I'd like to do that.

You are absolutely correct that in Scripture dragons are associated with evil, though "dragon" is used to describe Nebuchadrezzar and Pharaoh, not just Satan himself. Now consider: God allowed His people to be subject to both Nebuchadrezzar and Pharaoh... so in a very real sense, God allow His people to be enslaved by these "dragons."

To my understanding, passing through the fire is a reference to sacrificing children to Molech. The rest of the passages you reference talk about not going to witches and wizards for divination. I do not find where these passages say we should avoid all reference or interaction with them. In high school, I knew several Wiccans. While I never participated in any of their witchcraft, I did speak to them and did my best to be their friend. But my personal experience has less to do with Sonlight than the actual content of our books.

Sonlight carries many missionary biographies which do often contain descriptions of witchcraft, shamanism and demonic practices. But the goal is not to feed these ideas to your children, but rather show how the forces of evil are very real in this world and that Christ has overcome them and offers so much more.

With all that as background, I'd like to finally respond to your question:

Followers of God have, throughout history, had to live with/under/next to "dragons," witches, wizards and demonic activity. Sonlight seeks to, among a great many other things, help us as followers of Christ see how He would want us to deal with these forces and those who attempt to wield them. In that sense, Sonlight is perhaps the best Christian homeschool curriculum to use.

But the specific title you allude to doesn't actually have anything to do with any of that. I believe My Father's Dragon is about ingenuity, creativity, caring for the oppressed and using one's resources wisely. The dragon is--at most--the catalyst for the tale. It is not a "Biblical dragon" but rather a mythical creature in need.

Again: It sounds like Sonlight may not be right for your family, and I completely agree that you--as a parent--need to decide what is right for your child based on your understanding of them.

I would be happy to chat about this with you further if you still have concerns or questions, and I wish you all the best in your homeschooling endeavors.


Here at Sonlight we get questions every now again about the content of the books we carry--often The Wizard of Oz and The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Do you ever get questions about the content you teach in your home?

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester


Peggy said...

I love Sonlight! I read the 27 reasons not to buy, and bought. I don't regret it. Last year, we read a book called the Witch of Blackbird Pond. Many will not choose SL because of books like this. Which is sad because there is no witch in this book, but the woman is called a witch by superstitious people. It is set just prior to the Salem Witch Trials, a very real part of our history that our children should be taught about, lest we make the same mistake again.

I also did Core K last year, which included the My Father's Dragon as Luke mentioned in his response. I did not like the book and we did not finish it because it does contain a mythological creature, and that NOT as part of the imagination. That, however is NOT the main reason we set it aside. The MAIN reason we set it aside is because the boy deliberately sets out to disobey his mother because he feels he is right, and justified in his actions. This is NOT a story/ideal that should be read to 5 year olds. Then, the child runs away...

As a parent, I always try to know what my kids are reading anyway. For the most part, SL books MORE THAN make up for the few "bad apples" that I don't agree with. Johnny Tremain, Witch of Blackbird Pond, and Carry on, Mr. Bowditch, are just a FEW examples of such fine literature that me and my family have been introduced to because of SL. I am forever grateful.

Michelle said...

I also read the articles - reasons to buy & reasons not to buy - before I bought. Those articles, in fact, were a large part of the reason why I chose Sonlight in the first place and never looked back. We're in our 8th year, still loving it.

We have read "Wizard of Oz" "Witch of Blackbird Pond" and "My Father's Dragon" (some more than once) - and loved all of them.

Peggy raises an interesting point about "My Father's Dragon" I had not noticed in all our reading aloud & listening to it on CD. While I agree that it was wrong for him to deliberately disobey his mother, I don't see that as the main point of the story.

In our family, we have focused on the creativity, ingenuity and problem-solving which I think is the focus of the book.

None of my children have ever said to me (and we have listened to this book & read it many, many times), "Why should I have to obey you? The boy in My Father's Dragon didn't obey his mother."

That being said, my children are not Peggy's children. We as parents know our children best and must do what we think best for them. Thanks for affirming that parent in the midst of explaining Sonlight's position Luke.

Jenn @ Beautiful Calling said...

I haven't bought Sonlight yet but plan to at some point in the next year for my 3 yo.

I enjoy reading the different posts and comments that come along.

I thought this was a very interesting discussion and Luke, I appreciate your scriptural insight along with your answer! I also found the comments quite helpful.

I look forward to our Sonlight Experience1

Unknown said...

I haven't read "My Father's Dragon" yet. We did have the "Witch of Black bird Pond" in our schedule but I chose to skip it. Honestly it wasn't because of the content (we didn't get that far) but because of the book itself. I was having to supply too much background information on Salem etc. to make it relevant at all.

I don't have any problems with creatures in mythology (love mythology!) myself but I do want to treat it with the (fictional) respect it deserves.

Unknown said...

Great response Luke!! I reserched so many different curriculum and when I found sonlight I was so excited. It was like a breath of fresh air! I voraciously read everything I could get my hands on . For hours everyday!!! My parents encouraged it . We had boxes of books in the attic. Floor to ceiling bookcases in the basement . We got books for our birthdays ,Christmas, and everything in between, books have eased the way through life trials, they have made me smart and strong . They have allowed me to live outside of my tiny little world. I have seen the ruins of pompei, the pride of the Romans, the frivolity of fashion, the pain of early Christianity, I have lived in ways I would never have had if my parents had not been as smart as they were. This is why I love sonlight so much . They support what I believe is very important to small minds. Life lived abundantly! My children are in the oworld they must live here. They must be taught how to live in the world but not of the world. I am only in my third week of my first year in sonlight. I dont have credibility yet but so far I love it !!!!! :)

Missy said...

We just received our core 6 materials this week. My daughter was complaining about Greek Myths. I had to explain to her that even if we don't believe in the greek gods that we still needed to understand the cultural references that went with them. I believe that the same applies to witches and dragons and such. Oh my. We don't believe and it gives us great opportunities for discussion.

Thank you Sonlight for every good, wonderful and not so great (according to my daughter) book that you have in every single core.

Karen said...

I have heard so many great things about SonLight. This is my 4th year HSing and the only reason I haven't bought SL is the cost. I am a single mom and I was laid off for most of last year. I work so hard to pull things together for my daughter who is 10. The idea of having a curriculum that totally rocks, all laid out, is something I am working toward.
Homeschooling Rocks!

Raising Four Waitleys said...

Thank you for the very good post. My son and I just had this conversation yesterday concerning a video game that didn't rely on fantasy but on the very real power of demonic forces. There is a huge difference in fantasy and drawing power from satan and seeing it as good. Thanks again! You just reaffirmed what I had already been feeling!

Karen Joy said...

Luke, I can ditto what most of the previous commenters (and yourself) have already mentioned.

I went to a Christian school from preschool through 12th grade -- a very conservative school -- mostly because my parents were afraid of what was out there in the world. I was (am) a voracious reader, and all of my books were screened by my mother to weed out references to the occult, mythology, and really, anything that wasn't 100% Biblical. The school I went to took a similar approach.

I don't fault my parents for their desire to protect me. However, I don't think a university freshman should have to hole up in a library to acquaint herself with why evolution is wrong, and I don't think a woman's FIRST introduction to Greek myths should be as she teaches them to her children in Core 1. :)

I don't have enough time & space to suggest all the reasons why it can be a good idea to acquaint yourself with material outside of your own set of beliefs, but they are myriad.

Now, there is a "slippery slope" thing there, too. A number of friends of mine dabbled in "black-list" books, as a matter of rebellion, and really got caught up in horror fiction, demonic material, and the like. AND, I think that there are far too many Christian "ministries" who obsess about content of cultural material available to our children (and ourselves).

So it can be hard to find the balance in what's right.

But for us, here's the balance: JESUS. If you know Him; if you're pursuing Him; if your "normal", everyday, 24/7 life is full of Him; if He is truly the centerpiece of your family's lives, then when your children come upon something untoward, they will recognize it and reject it!!

I will never forget the day that my oldest (who is now 13) said at about age 7, upon the umpteenth time re-reading Usborne's Greek Myths, "I sure am glad our God is not like those Greek gods!"

Out of the mouths of babes, right???

I can't tell you how many times we've had opportunity, while schooling, to compare and contrast our beliefs vs. the beliefs of others, and it is such a joy to me that, upon inspection, Christianity stands up, even in the mind of a child!!

Sorry this is so long (can you tell the topic is close to my heart??). Suffice it to say, that, yes, balance is needed. But, I think many Christians undervalue the power and beauty and majesty and awesomeness of our God and HIS stories, and we don't need to fear some contact with those who believe slightly (or completely) differently than we do.

In my opinion. :)

Unknown said...

Absolutely. My 9 year old daughter has a heart for missions. I wholeheartedly believe God has used Sonlight's curriculum as one tool (plus our church) to bring that forward in her life. If that is the path God has for her life I want to prepare her the best I can by studying real stories of what happened in the past and what she may face in the field. If that is not the field for her than I know Sonlight will prepare her for any field she chooses. My nephew also has a heart for God because of the time we spent reading Sonlight's books together. He has carried the life lessons forward with him as he continued to public school. He will come to me and say "remember when this character did this in that book..." and I realize that was over four years ago. What an impact! And at times I thought HE wasn't listening! I thank God for the time we spent together and continue to spend together reading and learning.

Happy Elf Mom (Christine) said...

Elf is almost finished with the Fellowship of the Ring, but I have not allowed him to read Genesis 38 yet. Somehow our curriculum skips that chapter this year. :)

The Reader said...

We've gotten questions often. We are more of a "read/watch alongside and then discuss how a Christian should respond to those things" mindset, rather than a "avoid at all costs so my child is never exposed to that evil" mindset. Perhaps this is why SL is such a perfect fit for us.

I think you answered the question well, Luke. I also wonder how this viewpoint (sheltering vs. purposeful parent-guided exposure) changes as our children grow. I know I am much more relaxed and purposeful now than I was when my oldest was doing Core K. (he's doing Core 5 now, in 7th grade). My youngest will have a vastly different Core K experience, as my views have changed (for the better).

One thing I'll say - I love that SL is so rich and full that even when I was leaving books out left and right, my children still got a very complete education. Thank you for that, SL, and for the wonderful IG notes that go along with the "questionable" stuff so I have someone holding my hand, in a sense, as we tackle the tough topics.

Fifi said...

Oh Luke ..... I hear this soooo often. But then I must tell you ..... 12 years ago I was exactly like your 'anti dragon lady'! ..... My hubby and I had to actually move 1000km(away from our legalistic/judgemental church) to another city to learn what true 'freedom' was!

Only a week ago I had a friend over ... she wanted to know about homeschooling. My youngest is doing Sonlight Core 6 ... but my eldest(gr 10) is doing the British International Distance College. (in South Africa)
I mentioned that my Grade 10-er was reading 'The Hobbit' by Tolkien. She said 'Isn't that pooofy?' I asked her what she meant .... but she just kept saying .... 'Oooh that's poofy. ohh that's poofy.'
I feel that Chrisians can be so opinionated by stuff they know NOTHING about ... oh my word .... 'My Father's Dragon' is still both my boys favourite book .... and yes ... they love the Lord dearly!


Luke Holzmann said...

Wow, friends. Wow. Thank you.



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