Many people don’t realize that there are so many non-religious homeschoolers. The stereotypical picture of a Christian homeschool family doesn’t reflect the reality of homeschooling for many families. Non-religious homeschoolers exist, whether they’re atheist, agnostic or just plain avoiding the issue.
Secular Homeschool Support Groups
Meeting local secular homeschoolers can prove to be a challenge. Many larger cities have secular homeschool support groups. Sometimes the term “Inclusive” is used in lieu of “secular.” An inclusive homeschool group would welcome all religions, however, and some secular homeschooling families prefer to keep social interactions non-religious.
Families who strive for non-religious homeschooling friends may search long and hard to find the environment that meets their needs. It may be wise to take advantage of one of homeschooling’s greatest gifts – the ability to befriend people of diverse backgrounds and age groups. Focus on the needs and interests of the children and build social relationships around common interests, not homeschooling status. Scouting groups and hobby clubs allow children to form social relationships with people based upon a common interest.
Non Religious Homeschool Curriculum
Finding curriculum without religious dogma may be tricky. The majority of homeschool curriculum publishers are Christian. Secular homeschoolers who want to avoid the dumbed-down curricula available to public schools can opt for a nontraditional approach to education, whether it’s the Charlotte Mason method, the Thomas Jefferson Method, Unschooling or Radical Unschooling.
Non Christian Homeschool Programs
Public school districts often offer homeschooling programs and many state sponsored online academies present a secular curriculum. Before enrolling in a state-sponsored homeschool program, families should be sure to check out their state’s homeschooling regulations and make a conscious decision whether or not it’s “worth it” to join forces with the school district. In these programs, students are often technically enrolled in public school and can be removed from homeschooling at the whim of the district.
Atheist and Agnostic Homeschoolers
Atheist homeschoolers have organized themselves online for homeschooling support since the early 1990’s. Families who are seeking secular homeschool support on the internet can find websites, message boards, Facebook groups and email support groups for atheist homeschoolers and for agnostics.
Non-Religious Homeschooling Conventions
Conventions for secular homeschoolers can be a challenge. Some state-wide homeschool support groups offer conventions, but it can’t be guaranteed that the event will be free from religion. The vendors and speakers that attend the event are trying to sell a product or appeal to an audience that they expect will be religious. So unless the event is marketed specifically without religion, then it’s unlikely that the experience will be one a secular family will enjoy. Unschooling conferences are typically not religious. The annual Rethinking Everything (formerly Rethinking Education) and Life is Good Conferences, held over Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day Weekend are non religious and both focus on unschooling.
As of 2020, homeschool families without religion are still a minority in the homeschooling community. They’re not without a voice, though and new resources are being created, from websites, message boards, email groups and internet-based social groups and even magazines.
Choosing A Homeschooling Method
Deciding to homeschool is a huge step toward a new lifestyle. The homeschool curriculum industry has become enormous. A plethora of educational companies are offering an overwhelming variety of options which all translate into one word for new homeschoolers; decisions. How is a parent supposed to know which choices will work for her family?
It’s so easy to picture the kids sitting nicely at the dining room table, with a neat stack of books and an apple by Mom’s teacup. For families with compliant children, and no educational objections to the merits of mimicking the schools, school-at-home might be the perfect solution.
There are several vendors of pre-packaged curriculum products. Some programs offer record-keeping, homework help and parental support via the telephone or Internet. Sonlight, a literature based curriculum, even offers a full refund guarantee. Although, to be fair, their curriculum is quite flexible and involves a lot more snuggling up with good books than sitting at a desk memorizing facts.
A popular choice lately – computer-based schools – offers families more interaction with other online students in chat room environments and access to “teachers” via email and message forums. Online learning is often favored by families with busy lifestyles. Lisa Whelchel, the actress who played “Blair” in TV’s Facts of Life, and author of So You’re Thinking About Homeschooling [Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2003] used an online school for her children’s education while she was promoting her book release.
Online schooling removes the child from the physical classroom without placing the burden of lesson plans and teaching upon the parents. Online homeschooling is also a good choice for parents who might be afraid to take full responsibility for the educational fate of their children.
Classical learning has many catchphrases. A Thomas Jefferson Education and the Charlotte Mason method are just two of them. Often history and literature rich, and based on a trivium of increased understanding, they rely heavily on developing writing and communication skills, feature high quality books including “The Classics,” and include a great deal of discussion and reflection. The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer [Peace HIll Press, 2004] is a handy guide for understanding and getting started with a Classical Education.
Families who are comfortable throwing away the textbooks and not inflicting any sort of lesson plan or agenda upon their child’s education might want to try unschooling. Unschooled children are free to learn (or not) according to their own whims and aren’t directed to working from workbooks or textbooks. Learning for an unschooler is the result of pursuing an interest and self-studying it until the interest is satisfied.
According to a poll on the Mothering Magazine message boards, most home schoolers consider themselves “eclectic.” An eclectic homeschooler “takes the best and leaves the rest.” Using the most appropriate aspects of each method is the perfect way for many families to customize the education of their children to meet the many needs of the family.
An important thing for prospective homeschoolers to do is to honestly evaluate their ability and desire to work within the homeschooling framework they are most attracted to. Participating in a network of families (online or in a local support group) who are actively homeschooling will provide feedback and tips to help new families find their way.