I am so excited for the guest post this week. My friend Meg from 3 different amazing blogs is coming to address a topic I can’t. While I am a faith based homeschooler, I understand that some who follow this site are not. Because I can not relate I thought today would be an awesome day to let Meg come and share some great information and resources for those who are secular homeschoolers. I hope this encourages and equips you on your homeschool journey.
There is an assumption about homeschoolers, even within the homeschooling community, that all homeschoolers are conservative Christians who homeschool primarily to provide Biblical training in all subjects. When people find out that we homeschool our six children the next questions are almost always “OH! Do you go to church XYZ? How is their co-op?” and they’re genuinely confused when I tell them that no, we don’t go to any church because we’re secular homeschoolers.
Secular homeschoolers are a very diverse lot, we vary from one extreme to the other. We are atheists & freethinkers who choose to homeschool. We are religious but not Christian. We are people who believe in God but leave the religious instruction to our church. We are progressive Christians who teach the science of Evolution. Not only do we secular homeschoolers exist, but we are the most rapidly growing segment of homeschoolers!
So what makes secular homeschoolers different from religious homeschoolers? The answer is, not a whole lot. Most of the time the only thing that separates us is our belief in a deity, or which deity we believe in, and sometimes what we teach for science. Our methods may differ, but the reasons we homeschool show that we have far more in common than we have different.
So if not to provide religious instruction, why do secular folks homeschool? Secular homeschoolers choose homeschooling to provide their children with an education tailored to their child’s needs. Secular homeschoolers choose homeschooling because the local school options weren’t able to accommodate their child’s uniqueness. Secular homeschoolers choose homeschooling because it’s the best option for their family. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
All homeschoolers face challenges but secular homeschoolers face an additional and unique set of challenges:
Finding curriculum, especially science curriculum, is hard! Curriculum choices are limited if you are looking for totally secular options, and a lot of what is available is very expensive or isn’t truly secular. While some of us bite the bullet and spend a small fortune, most of us end up creating our own curriculum, or we buy something with content we don’t care for and edit it. The good news is that secular curriculum creators & providers pop up every day! Some of my favorite places to buy secular curriculum are Pandia Press, Homeschool Buyers Co-Op, and Amazon. If you find reviews helpful be sure to check out Secular Homeschool on the Web’s long list of reviews.
Secular homeschoolers may also find themselves searching far & wide for in-person support. There are a lot of online support groups, and that’s great, but we all want to help our kids make friends so an in-real-life group is very important. In my experience the vast majority of in-real-life groups require members to sign a statement of faith before being allowed to join, effectively ensuring that non-believers (and people who believe differently) are excluded. This practice is considered acceptable in the homeschooling community but I always felt like it created a hostile, unwelcoming environment. The good news is that with secular homeschooling so rapidly increasing there are a lot of people out there looking for inclusive support and new support groups are started every day!
I found myself in a secular desert many years ago, so I started a support group. I realize that isn’t practical for everyone, so I advise people to look for the word “inclusive” when the investigate local groups. Ask a lot of questions about the group before joining so you know if you’re a good fit, and be prepared to spend a lot of time driving to events because you may have to look in another city.
Not only is finding local support difficult, finding state and national-level support that’s truly inclusive is nearly impossible. If a secular person finds themselves needing legal support they usually have nowhere to turn, making a local support group even more important.
Unfortunately, while many religious homeschoolers are very welcoming of us seculars, that’s not always the case. Often there are assumptions about our morals and behavior just because we’re secular. My third child, for instance, was once expected to exit the building during an art class. Why? Because the teacher noticed that she didn’t close her eyes for the end-of-class prayer, The teacher felt it would “cause a situation and ridicule” the children who were praying. It was assumed that because we aren’t religious homeschoolers that my child would be so rude as to interrupt a prayer, even though my child sat quietly through several weeks of prayer. All my child wanted to do was learn how to paint, she wasn’t there to cause a problem or try to convert anyone. [tweetthis]Sometimes the lines we adults draw, usually with good intention, do more harm to our children than good.[/tweetthis]
Of course, everything I’ve described goes both ways. I firmly believe that we all have more in common, and more to learn from each other, than we have different. Homeschooling families today may be very different, but we all have the same goal. It’s time that we put our few differences aside and embrace each other! The next time you meet a homeschooler who is different from you, get to know them, you may be pleasantly surprised!
Meg Grooms is a long-time homeschooling mother of 6, her kids range in age from still in diapers to engaged to be married. Meg is the leader of the oldest & friendliest support group in town, the super awesome Mid-Florida Homeschoolers. In between raising her kids and fighting the good fight against dirty laundry, Meg blogs at HomeschoolGameschool.com, TheBrainyTourist.com, and ThisBigHappy.com.