Here in Upstate South Carolina, more and more parents appear to be choosing to home school their children. As I am a curious sort, whenever I encounter such folks, and if the topic comes up, I generally ask why they made that choice. The vast majority say that they are Christians and want their children educated in an environment that respects God and His teachings. To my mind, this is fair enough, and I am not looking to make any judgement calls on the matter.
It occured to me yesterday that I have never met a home-schooling family that had an atheistic/agnostic/free-thinking outlook on things.
Do such families exist in your neck of the woods? If so, do their reasons for home-schooling have to do with necessity (special needs child, etc.), or more along the lines of concerns about deterioration of the public school system.
Any thoughts? I’m just curious because, as stated, the overwhelming reason given for home-schooling around here is based on religious beliefs.
I know ten years ago there was a group of Minneapolis parents homeschooling their children who were members of the SF Fandom community (not a lot of conservative Christians there). They just felt they could give their children a better education at home than the kids would get in public schools. I suspect (knowing some of the people who did it) that their own school experiences were difficult socially - which may contribute to their desire to homeschool.
I guess that’s because you live in the South. Here, we get a mix of all kinds.
The people I know homeschool for various reasons, and only rarely are they religious ones (though frequently they are religious anyway, it’s just that their beliefs are not primarily directing their homeschooling choices). Some of them started off in public school, but their child wasn’t doing well for some reason. Others just think it’s a neat way to live. Still others do it to focus more on academics, or arts, or something.
There are atheists, agnostics, pagans, Jews, and various types of Christians. We don’t have a lot of Muslims in town, but those exist somewhere.
I spend some time on a message board that is populated mainly by pagan feminist unschoolers, who live all over the place. Unschooling tends to be the style of choice for pagans IME.
I know at least two homeschooling families personally who are explicitly at least agnostic, possibly atheist. This is in Dallas, TX as a point of reference. There is a homeschooling co-op in Dallas called Homeschoolers Excel which is a secular homsechooling co-op. They meet once a week and have “classes” where individual parents who have certain qualifications can teach things most wouldn’t be qualified to teach. Music, art, foreign language, etc. They are not affiliated with any churches/religions, they don’t pray in classes, they don’t study religion in any of the co-op classes. Both social interaction and scholastic excellence are the goals of the co-op.
Excel is not atheist, but they are more areligious, meaning they believe religion is a personal pursuit and they will not trod on the parents choices either way. They call it “nonsectarian”. Many of the members are quite religious and the nonsectarian nature of the co-op was probably more to prevent religious infighting than to teach agnosticism or atheism. Fortunately this atmosphere of “leave religion out of it when you come to Excel” makes it a very hospitable environment for agnostics or atheists(for the heart of the Bible belt at least). There are a couple atheists in the group who won’t blink an eyelid before smacking the hand of someone who starts introducing religion into the co-op. One recently shot down an attempt to promote a program called “Little Giant Steps” whose stated mission is clearly religious.
Secular homeschoolers are a small minority of homeschoolers but they do exist. Most of the resources teaching at home come from religious sources. Bob Jones University is one of the largest producers of homeschool cirriculum in the US and it is extremely religious. I’d say the biggest challenge for someone wanting to have a secular homeschool experience would be finding support materials. The only secular homeschool cirriculum I know of is published by Oak Meadow who also run teacher-support programs and fully accredited home-based learning programs.
Secular homeschooling is growing(as is all homeschooling) and Excel is not unique. Secular Home School Support Group in Colorado is another example of a group founded by and for homeschoolers who focus more on academic excellence than teaching religious lessons.
I belong to the Unitarian Universalist/Humanist homeschoolers and the Eclectic homeschoolers of middle Tennessee, as well as my local inclusive group. If you look for them, you can find pagan homeschoolers, atheist homeschoolers, and every flavor in between.
I home school my daughter through a charter school that’s not religiously affiliated. There are several online academies that are pretty good with no religious affiliation. Calvert looked to be the best. If you have any questions, feel free to email me, I’d be happy to answer.
When I was homeschooling my older kid, I was the only atheist homeschooler I knew. In my part of town, they were all rabid fundamentalist Christians although I think there’s a couple of families with younger kids who are just starting out who are not. What I found hardest is that when you met these families there was an assumption that we were all fundamentalist.
It made life tough and it’s probably one of the reasons my kid chose to go back to school as he was lonely. I still think homeschooling would have been a better choice for him but as I was unable to provide a community where we fitted, he’s in school and flourishing.
I’m an agnostic (ex-Christian) homeschooler. It’s tough to find support out here. When I was looking into how to start homeschooling, I went to a web chat about homeschooling and naturally the conversation turned to why people were homeschooling. Most of the people started talking about how they felt a calling, they felt God wanted them to do it, and so on, and I kept trying to say “Look, I want to know HOW to do it, not WHY you’re doing it,” and then I got accused of persecuting them for their faith.
It was not very satisfactory.
A friend had to drop out of her local homeschooling group when it went through a hostile takeover by Christians, who among other things decided everyone in the group had to sign a statement of faith (which was not the way the group had been run, at all.) There is a local group I’m tied into, which goes out of its way to make sure it advocates no particular faith, creed, style of teaching, or anything like that, but I’ve not found it terribly useful to me. Last month they had an author in (I won’t name her homeschooling-themed book because I don’t mean to criticize it) but all her ‘neat, inexpensive’ ideas were things I would have despised doing in school, and will not be inflicting on my children. So that was the extent of what I gleaned from that meeting. It wasn’t very helpful. I’ve been unable to find an active online group of atheist/agnostic homeschoolers to join.
We’re out here. But if other folks are like me, we could use more support than we have.
When my daughter was little, I looked into homeschooling, but the only information I could find was very heavy into religion. We’ve made do with supplementing her public-school education at home, but now I know of a fairly large homeschooling group in my area that is completely non-religious (not ANTI, just non) and more resources for homeschooling are available in regular bookstores. We used to only be able to find materials in Christian bookstores. My niece has been homeschooled by her non-religious parents for a couple of years now (she starts high school this fall, and interestingly, they’ve chosen a Catholic high school.)
You might be interested in reading Kingdom of Children: Culture and Controversy in the Homeschooling Movement, which is largely about the divide between homeschoolers, with fundamentalist Christians on one side, and everybody else on the other. I found it interesting to read, though it focused largely on the early-to-mid-90’s, and according to those I’ve asked, made more of the divide than actually exists.
AFAICT, homeschooling is attracting more people for non-religious reasons every year.
If I ever have kids, I would like to homeschool. I am agnostic/athiest and would not do it for religous reasons. The main reason I see for homeschool is that public schools are not an environment that is suited for learning. Being “smart” or getting good grades is often looked upon in a negative light. I think many of the problems with education stem from this unfriendly (for learning) environment.
I would personally rather hire a personal tutor, than trust myself to teach them responsibly, but that would be expensive, and it would probably be just as expensive to send em to a private school. Perhaps I should start saving now.
I should have given it more than a passing sentence in my original post I guess. For everyone and anyone interested in secular support materials for homeschooling, please check out Oak Meadow. Here are some reviews of their materials which make it clear, even if the main site does not, that these are secular materials. They also offer accredited distance learning all the way through high school. They have tutors and teachers who can work with the family as well as offering just the materials or other support.
Opportunities to join groups like Homeschoolers Excel are a little harder to come by, depending on where you live. Still I would encourage you to look and possibly consider starting one of your own. The number of families choosing to homeschool for secular/academic reasons is growing very rapidly and it should be possible to form a group with just a few members at first. When I was homeschooled way back when there were two other families who homeschooled that we knew. Neither lived less than an hour and a half away. Still we would work together for field trips and puchases of support materials. It worked fairly well for us and that was before the low communication costs of the Internet and “long-distance included” telephone plans.
Well, I’m not atheist or agnostic, but I’m not Christian. I can’t join the local home schooling group, because I won’t sign a statement of faith declaring that The Lord Jesus Christ is my personal savior :rolleyes: . I’m going to check out the links that Mtgman was kind enough to post. Also, my middle daughter has been using childu.com for a couple of years now. We’ve been very pleased with it, but as of right now, it only goes through 7th grade. She’s just finishing up 7th grade now. They are working on expanding into high school, so it’s possible that by the fall, they’ll have an 8th grade curriculum available.
I had different reasons for home schooling each of my two girls that learn here at home. With the oldest, she’s emotionally disturbed, and her bipolar leads her to be very impulsive. In public school, there was way too much opportunity for her to get into trouble; also, the kids harrassed her quite badly. With my middle daughter, well, she’s very, very bright, and I didn’t think public school was ever going to bring out the best in her. My youngest is in public Pre-K now, and will go to public kindergarten, but when it’s time for her to start 1st grade, I’ll home school her, too.
Well, my sister and I were homeschooled by my parents, and our family is nonreligious. Not antireligious, per se,* but religion—christianity, in particular—was never part of our upbringing or daily lives.
My sister, btw, converted to laid-back generic protestantism a few years ago. I’m an Atheist.
*Though we’re all of us pretty vocally critical of religious fanatics, conservatives, tyrants, and other varients of “asshole.”
Another source of secular home educating materials, not so much textbooks as lesson planners, accomplishment journals, calendars, etc. is the professional business world. Companies like Franklin Covey publish a wide variety of productivity aids which can be used for organizing and tracking homeschooling activities. Their prioritizing and organizing methodologies are aimed at the professional businessperson in virtually any career field. As such they are both flexible enough to cover a wide range of uses and varied enough to suit the temperments/interests of their customer base. Very few of their products have religious themes. Keeping you productive is their goal, they don’t really care about your eternal soul.