The Challenges of Secular Homeschooling

by Robert Ray, Humanists of North Puget Sound

As soon as we mention that we homeschool, people automatically assume we are religious and pulled our kids out of the “evil” secular school system.  However, nothing could be further from the truth.

We are actually Humanists who became fed up with the failing school system in the state we lived in.  The ‘no child left behind’ rules had our mildly learning-disabled daughter spending more hours in special education class than anything else. We only contemplated homeschooling the girls after the teacher wanted to have our other daughter tested because she was having trouble with her spelling; the time for contemplation was over.  We pulled the girls out the next week and have homeschooled ever since.

We thought that it would be relatively easy to find educational material for them. In fact, it was very easy.  The only problem was the content was loaded with Christian theology.

I expected to find plenty of Biblical courses on Creationism and Bible study;  I was not at all surprised when I found several Christian “science” texts.  What was truly frustrating to us was when we found the courses in math from a Christian point of view.  I was not aware the Christians had their own math.  Finding secular material was difficult, but not impossible. We finally found some workbooks and used school textbooks to start out with.

It wasn’t just the material that posed an obstacle to homeschooling; the general homeschool community was mostly evangelical Christians.  While we were able to talk to the other families about homeschooling, nearly every thread led to religion and how it was part of their daily routine. The constant references to starting the day with prayer or making sure Bible study was a priority to the day became very difficult to ignore.

Eventually we enrolled the kids in a state-sponsored homeschool curriculum.  We thought: great, a state-sponsored program, should be no problems with that.  Oh, how wrong we were.

The forum for the program had every sort of religious support group you could imagine, yet not one for Atheists.  So being the conscientious person I am, I decided to create one.  A moderator must approve the group before it is made public.  My group was deemed too offensive because the name had “atheist” in it.  I renamed it to “secular parents” and received approval from the admin.  For a few days, all was well.  We had a few parents join and we were finally part of a community. Then we were invaded by the others on the forum.  They would private message our members and do the standard “evil atheist” routine and block messages back.  The moderators ignored complaints from us.  It was frustrating having to defend our position when we did not invite these people and could not remove them from our group.  We eventually moved our forum to a private Facebook group.

The problems did not end there.  One of the courses in the state-sponsored program was Bible stories as literature.  They present the stories of Daniel in the lion’s den, David and Goliath and the Story of Ruth.  When this came up, I posted in the school forum that we intended to skip that class.  After some discourse, I changed my mind and decided to teach them the stories as they appear in the Bible not the watered-down version in the program.  The girls found the stories to be disgusting and poorly written; I agreed with them.  Even the history was slanted from a Christian point of view. We got fed up and removed the girls before the year was up.

Don’t be discouraged, we did eventually find some great online communities like The Secular Homeschooler along with several facebook groups and pages.  We made local friends that we can actually talk to in person.  We also joined local Humanists groups like the Humanists of North Puget Sound.

While we were making some great contacts within the parent’s groups, it did nothing for finding friends for the girls.  We felt that we needed to do something.  It was then that we decided to create a youth group for children of Humanist parents.  While still a work in progress, we are growing and the girls are glad to see that there are other kids who think like them.  Hopefully it will continue to grow and let others know they are not alone.

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5 Responses to The Challenges of Secular Homeschooling

  1. wundermuffin says:

    Have you read the blog Smrt Lernins? It’s written by a secular homeschooler who has blogged about these issues and how she’s dealt with them in her family. We aren’t at the point yet where we need to think about that, but having read along with her blog I imagine it is very frustrating to continually come up against this stuff!

  2. LittleOsa says:

    Thanks for your article! I’m a mom of a 1st and 3rd grader and seriously considering homeschooling. I appreciate articles like this that help calm my jitters!

  3. I know this was written a few years ago, but I share your frustration as well. I am a “secular” homeschooler and having been in it for a year and a half found it so irritating that I had to dig and dig to see if a curriculum was truly secular. So I decided to do something about it.

    I am starting a secular curriculum group buy club. We will only have secular curriculum, so parents don’t have to research to see if their science curriculum teaches creations or their history program is bible leaning :)

    I am hoping it’s ok to post this here, if not, feel free to delete :)

  4. jenjamsam says:

    I consider myself religious, but I don’t want it in my text books. Maybe I’m weird? IDK! I bought the Horizons Health unit for Kindergarten and was SO excited when it came in! I loved their math books! Then I flipped through it and there were bible quotes one every page. I was totally bummed out. I won’t be using it now. It is SO hard to find things that are not religious. Yes, I want to teach my son my values, but I don’t want to shove it down his throat all day long. I want to teach him what I know, but also let him be open minded enough about it to decide what he wants to believe. Again, I know I’m different here on this than most. Anyways, so sorry for anyone who gets treated badly for their beliefs. How horrible for them to say those things to you! That is not very “Christian” like at all. I personally believe we each are own our own path here and we have every right to choose which path that is. It should be respected. Period. As for me I don’t label myself this religion or that and that seems to tick people off to! Hope things are looking up! :)

  5. Keri says:

    I understand exactly how you feel. Even though I am a Christian, I still did not like feeling that it was prerequisite in certain groups, online and in the real world. I also like that forum. They also have a G+ group as well incase you would like to join there too. ~> I know this isn’t exactly a recent post and I am not sure if you still check recent comments or not, but I just wanted to share my 2 cents. O’ and I will share this posting on that G+ Secular group as well ;)

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