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Secular Homeschoolers — guest column by JJ Ross

You think YOUR secular kids face some tricky issues in Christian-branded society? Ha!

bks44093 Picture a homeschooling family. Do you see a bible in the picture, prominent in the foreground — perhaps on the kitchen table around which six or seven modestly-dressed children do their lessons, while their denim-jumpered mother bakes bread and solemnly applies her righteous rod to strays?

Kathleen Parker’s column this week about the GOP might as well be about homeschooling:

To be more specific, the evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch…is what ails [us] and will continue to afflict and marginalize its constituents if reckoning doesn’t soon cometh.

You could say I’m a “constituent” of homeschooling, but in a radically different picture from the evangelical right wing oogedy-boogedy branch. Heck, not just a different picture, a whole different story, written in another language.

Last week Dale said of secular parent blogging:

“Our greatest deficit — the lack of a connected, mutually supportive community — is slowly being erased. Equally important, this chorus of voices helps us to build consensus about the best practices for nonreligious parenting. So visit ‘em, read ‘em, comment and link up — and let me know who I missed.”

He can picture secular homeschool parent bloggers as a friendly neighborhood in that community. So if homeschooling, like Harvard, had a Humanist of the Year Award — and why don’t we, come to think of it? — Dale would deserve it. 🙂

We’re just starting to find ourselves and each other in the blogosphere, a search made more challenging by the fact we don’t know what to call ourselves. (Homeschoolers Beyond Belief?) Secular, inclusive, rational, atheist, freethinking? The online homeschooling community fights over the word “homeschool” itself, never mind the weight of all those adjectives hung around it like baggage on a skycap’s cart.

Some of us are trying Thinking Homeschoolers and Evolved Homeschoolers on for size. The main lesson I’ve taught myself so far is that it takes real thinking — knowledge work if you will — with plenty of detours through link farms and those insipid generic “about homeschooling” blurbs, to discover solid secular homeschooling resources that endure.

Three comprehensive favorites:

National Home Education Network with discussion forums (now read-only) on thinking topics such as networking between religious and not-religious families

Sandra Dodd’s Radical Unschooling and her “merrily unschooling” family blog

A to Z Home’s Cool

A secular network of trustworthy — preferably jaded — independent homeschooling parents doesn’t just connect us with the good stuff; it helps steer us around the bad. There’s the HSLDA to get to the bottom of, of course, which I won’t link because those patriarchs blot out the homeschooling sun without any help from me. Then there’s an elaborate online con game in which an individual (with many names) sets up a fake but believable show of influence as homeschool leader and authority, quoted by reporters, selling products and running private schools, sometimes from dozens of intertwined sites very unlikely for one parent to suspect, detect or connect.

It takes running down rabbit trails and then networking in controlled chaos, to share what we learn in places innocent newbies are likely to find it, and save them starting all over again — real education! I would give you three infamous names to prove the point, except then Dale would get indignant letters threatening legal action. (That’s how they operate. See why you probably won’t hear about them without some networking?)

Email lists were the hot ticket when we started homeschooling in the 1990s. For years they were my lifeline. Ten years ago the secular National Home Education Network (NHEN) was born of and built on email lists. But — maybe in a form of punctuated equilibrium, or would it be climate change? — it’s not the same today. My blog partner Nance Confer and I still operate Parent-Directed Education for a static membership, 28,000 archived messages dating back to the summer of 2001.

If you’re just burning to roam the archives of a particular list, it may be worth joining. State and local email lists often thrive; I hear two good examples are VA Eclectic HS with Shay Seaborne and Stephanie Elms (see her bloglink below) and Ben Bennett’s Indiana Home Educators Network (IHEN).

And there are tightly focused mentoring lists, for new unschoolers say, or college prep advice. But generally I no longer recommend email lists, for any homeschool parent comfortable in the blogosphere.

So think blogs, maybe find a couple here that speak to you. Then see who comments there, and who’s on that blog’s blogroll. Follow at your leisure, to infinity if you like. The universe is expanding, not contracting. 🙂

This has worked better for me than searching for atheist or rational, plus homeschooling or school choice or education freedom, etc. Oh, yeah, here’s a tip — don’t assume “rational” means merely logic and thinking. It can indicate ideology more than analysis, code for Ayn Rand discipleship as an “Objectivist” and sometimes coupled with an extreme brand of libertarian homeschool politics that uses Founding Father quotes and defend-the-constitution rhetoric to forward its fascist fringe beliefs. There is one blog for example listed on every “rational” homeschool blogroll I see, that’s anything but. So I don’t go back to that blog. Just sayin’ — it would be RATIONAL to vet your links more thoroughly, ahem, unless you too actually believe Obama is Jesus and Hitler all rolled up into one Marxist plot to overthrow America.

With that [drum roll please!] here’s a grab bag of 15 smartly secular homeschooling blogs, from my own little corner in my own little chair, just right for my home and hearth:

Bore Me to Tears

Cocking a Snook!

Doc’s Sunrise Rants

Farm School

Get In and Hang On

Home Education, Religion, Politics & Eclectic Stuff (HERP&ES)

Happy As Kings

HMS Indefatigable

Mental Multivitamin

The New Unschooler

O’Donnell Web

Rolfe Schmidt


Throwing Marshmallows

Unschool Days
JJ Ross blogs about thinking parenting and secular homeschooling at Cocking a Snook!



This was written on Friday, 21. November 2008 at 07:55 and was filed under critical thinking, nonbelief and nonbelievers, Parenting, schools. You can keep up with the comments to this article by using the RSS-Feed.

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Comments »

  1. Dale, I knew this would open the floodgates but I didn’t expect the first worthy oversight to come from me! Freedom of Education

    Comment: JJ Ross – 21. November 2008 @ 9:37 am

  2. Dale, thanks for the exposure to other secular blogs (in this post and the one a week or so ago and their comments).

    It’s interesting to see that the gamut is the same as that of the whole blogosphere. There’s some good stuff, the majority is pretty boring, and then we also have nuts as whacked out as the craziest religious blogs (and taking themselves just as seriously and self-righteous). I guess we’re not all that different, are we?

    Anyway, it makes me appreciate the Meming of Life that much more.

    Comment: nonplus – 21. November 2008 @ 9:58 am

  3. Nice list, I’ve added several to my reader. Thank you from another secular homeschooler 🙂

    Comment: Sarah – 21. November 2008 @ 10:28 am

  4. I saw that Sarah (above) had listed my blog in a previous post comment as an athiest blog, and thought I’d address something–I don’t discuss religion on my blog much, if at all, simply because it’s a non-issue for us. I love the t-shirts we all got at the last Live and Learn unschooling conference, because it says it best–“Unschoolers Live as if School Didn’t Exist.”

    That’s how I feel about atheism. I simply live my life as if religions didn’t exist. It just doesn’t come up much. So I tend not to comment on religion. I guess I could rant about religous issues, but I’d rather rant about government education. LOL

    I realize that I’m a minority of a minority of a minority ad nauseum. Libertarian, homeschooler–unschooler makes us even more different, atheist (though the kids do love the Flying Spaghetti Monster :)) living in the bible belt, transplanted from NY no less. I’m sure there are other things that keep putting me into a smaller and smaller box of people who match my ideas and way of living.

    On the local homeschool list that I run, I recently made a rule that disallows the posting/advertising/notice of any group or activity that is exclusive on the basis of religion, which was a bit controversial. I even have excluded Boy Scouts posts from the list. But you know what? Only a few of the over 450 subscribers had anything to say about it. That says a lot, to me. People are able to separate their homeschooling from their religious beliefs, at least the ones on my list. There are Christian hs lists and groups in the area, of course, so I suppose those folks are over there doing whatever they want to do.

    I do love to read the atheist homeschoolers’ and others’ blogs, though. And Bore Me to Tears often has me in tears (of laughter)!

    Comment: pegazzani – 21. November 2008 @ 10:54 am

  5. Ooh, should add that while we live without religion, I do recognize the huge impact that religions have on our world. Not trying to pretend they don’t!

    Comment: pegazzani – 21. November 2008 @ 11:00 am

  6. Wow. Thanks for including HMS Indefatigable – I’m honored to be amidst such great company. I promise to actually blog about homeschooling once in a while LOL

    I was a ‘slow on the uptake’ homeschooler when I started: I didn’t know homeschooling & religion went hand in hand. The ones who mentored me were either atheist or of the West Coast slightly loopy spiritual variety – dancing naked at moonlight, crystals, chanting to Gaia, gentleness and light and Om.

    It wasn’t until quite a bit later that I learned that most homeschoolers weren’t attachment parenting, extended breastfeeding hippies. What a surprise that first conference was!

    Comment: hornblower – 21. November 2008 @ 2:16 pm

  7. […] The Meming of Life » Secular Homeschoolers — guest column by JJ … […]

    Pingback: Website Directory - Sexually Transmitted Diseases – 21. November 2008 @ 8:59 pm

  8. Secular Homeschooling Magazine is another good resource for connecting with like-minded home educators and finding non-religious curricula and support:


    Thanks for the post and the mention JJ and Dale!


    Comment: Lynne – 21. November 2008 @ 10:50 pm

  9. And it’s a little late but I thought Summer deserved a shout-out for her “pagan” post: “Dude, Homeschoolers Aren’t All Crazy Fundies!”

    Comment: JJ Ross – 02. December 2008 @ 6:51 pm

  10. […] The Meming of Life Secular Homeschoolers guest column by JJ Posted by root 7 minutes ago (http://parentingbeyondbelief.com) I saw that sarah above had listed my blog in a previous post comment as an athiest blog and thought i 39 d website by twist amp twirl powered by wordpress Discuss  |  Bury |  News | The Meming of Life Secular Homeschoolers guest column by JJ […]

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  11. […] A guest post on secular homeschooling by JJ Ross […]

    Pingback: The Meming of Life » Secular homeschoolers: Darwinfish out of water Parenting Beyond Belief on secular parenting and other natural wonders – 18. February 2010 @ 4:36 pm

  12. […] it sound to you like how Thinking and Evolved Homeschoolers get mixed into an indistinguishable mob to the public view, with World Net Daily and HSLDA and Generation Joshua and the baby-whipping Pearl ministry, the […]

    Pingback: Tea Partying is to Homeschooling? « Cocking A Snook! – 19. February 2010 @ 11:59 pm

  13. I think that homeschooling is great, as long as you are using and successfully Teaching Writing Skills.

    Comment: GreyP – 14. March 2010 @ 6:13 pm

  14. […] Parenting Beyond Belief has an awesome article on finding your way in the secular homeschooling world, and a list of 15 SH bloggers for you to peruse as well. […]

    Pingback: Sunday Surf for Aug. 15 « Finding the Fantastic in Everyday Learning – 15. August 2010 @ 7:43 am

  15. I have often considered home schooling and discussed with my wife. My problem so far, is that the examples of home schooled children, often by ‘power christian’ friends are not very encouraging. Combined with the fact that the parents almost seem to be protecting their children rather than providing what’s necessary. I find thay worrysome?

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