Things Secular Homeschoolers Wish You Knew About Us
1. Sometimes secular homeschoolers have to pretend to be people we aren’t.
I pretended to be Catholic for 5 years because in the south in 1999 those were the only kind of homeschool support groups around. I could fake it well, since I was raised Catholic, but it had been a lot of years since I was in a church.
There are more secular-friendly support groups now than ever before, but not everywhere. The majority of us have had to lie about who we are just so our children could participate.
2. We wish there were more curriculum options that we didnt have to alter.
There is so much curriculum for religious homeschoolers out there, regardless of which religion you subscribe to. Secular homeschoolers don’t have it so easy, and to make things worse we have religious companies attempting to “secularize” their curriculum. When religious companies attempt to make a secular version of a program it often includes “sneaky” religious content. It’s impossible for a religious organization or company to produce a truly secular product, when that happens you end up with things like neutral science, and that’s not helpful to anyone.
3. We wish there were truly secular-friendly conventions.
There are a handful of existing secular-friendly conventions in the United States, but even secular-friendly conventions are overwhelmingly religious. We don’t mind sharing space, but we would like to see truly secular homeschool speakers and vendors make up more than 5% of the typical convention floor space. Secular homeschoolers are no longer an insignificant population, however, so conventions are rising to meet our needs. There is one truly secular convention, The SEA Homeschool Convention strives to be truly secular and representative of ALL homeschoolers, including homeschoolers of color and LGBTQ families who homeschool.
4. We are the fastest-growing group of homeschoolers.
It’s true! The homeschooling movement looks nothing like it did in the 70s, 80s, or even 90s. The majority of families who begin homeschooling now are doing so without religious motivation. In fact, in 2012, 91% of parents new to homeschooling didn’t cite religion as a reason they chose to homeschool. Now, the stats aren’t perfect measures of who is homeschooling, but they’re a solid indicator that things have changed and will continue to do so.
5. We don’t care if you aren’t secular.
It’s true! We seriously, really don’t care. We DO care if someone recommends religious materials knowing that we’re secular. We DO care if we are excluded from events because we are seclar. We DO NOT, however, care about your personal beliefs or what materials you use to teach your kids.
6. We know that others don’t define secular the same way we do.
There is a very popular religious homeschool company that decided a few years ago to begin offering a “secular” version of their program. To them secular means faith-neutral, meaning it’s good for homeschoolers of any Christian faith, but it’s not so great for actual secular homeschoolers or non-Christian religious homeschoolers. Some companies think that secular means they don’t teach any science, or the science leaves out the origins of the universe completely. Another company offers a secular version of their materials, but continues to use the parent manual with religious instructions as “a ministry”. Secular homeschoolers don’t want that kind of curriculum.
There also seems to be some confusion in the homeschooling community as to what secular means, so please take my word as a secular homeschooler on this one. Secular homeschooling means we educate our children without religious bias, and that we don’t teach them that one religion is better than others. That’s it. This also means we don’t teach atheism (which we couldnt do anyhow, because atheism is literally the lack of a belief in a god or gods.) For more information on what it means to be a secular homeschooler, read this post.
7. Secular Homeschoolers don’t shy away from religious education.
We aren’t afraid to teach our children about religion, in fact, our children probably know more about world religions than most American children. Why? Because religion is fascinating and understanding it, and its influence on history, can help us relate to others. Learning about our world neighbors makes us better prepared to deal with the realities of adult life, which can be really ugly sometimes.
8. We’re not a perfect population, please don’t expect us to be.
Some secular homeschoolers aren’t nice. Some secular homeschoolers are zealots. Please don’t expect us to be anything but human. We’re a large and varied population, treat us all like individuals.
9. We don’t think we’re better than anyone else.
If you’re basing your judgement of secular homeschoolers on online interactions or what someone else told you, don’t. Please include us and get to know us in person. We are really just like everyone else, we just don’t believe a religiously-biased education is right for our family. Really. (We won’t try to convert your children to atheism, I promise. Most secular homeschoolers aren’t atheists anyhow.)
10. We have little tolerance for religious companies who try (poorly) to market to us. Let us help!
I covered this a bit earlier, but here is my message for religious companies trying to market to secular homeschoolers: please contact us for input. Think of it like plumbing; you may think you know enough about plumbing to make some basic repairs, but if you’re replacing an entire bathroom you’re going to want input from the experts. Please hire truly secular homeschoolers to preview your content before you call it secular and put in on the market. And please don’t “go neutral” just to get our money because we won’t tolerate that.
11. We wish people would stop telling our children that they’re going to hell.
12. Home education is not abuse.
All homeschoolers want you to know that home education is not abuse. You only hear about homeschooling on the news when something horrible happens, and that’s a shame. If the media cared nearly as much about the public school families who commit the same atrocities, we’d never see anything else in the news.
13. We wish there were more non-religious places to host events.
We don’t usually mind if there is prayer time before or after an event, we’ll be the ones quietly and respectfully sitting in the back. We do, however, wish that there were more affordable venues to host events that aren’t churches. A church setting can be very triggering for those of us who were harmed by religion. It would be great if city parks would decrease fees for homeschool groups, or if businesses would open their extra space for meetings. (Shout out to the Microsoft Store, a super friendly place with a FREE theatre space for homeschool meetings! The parents meet while the kids play on tech!)
14. We have secular-safe spaces that we guard fiercely.
We aren’t exclusive, however. Groups like Secular Homeschooling with Netflix and Secular, Eclectic, Academic Homeschoolers are open to all homeschoolers, but they are secular-safe spaces and admin work hard to keep it that way. These groups allow only secular curriculum recommendations, they don’t allow proselytizing, and they don’t allow people to slander secular persons. There are many thousands of homeschool groups that are safe for religious persons, there are so few for secular homeschoolers that we fiercly guard the few we have.
15. We’re secular homeschoolers.
We’re ready to be recognized.
Meg Grooms is a long-time homeschooling mother of 6 children, ranging in age from preschool to married with kids of their own. Always a vagabond at heart, Meg and her family have embraced a slow travel lifestyle and currently call Southern California home. Your guess is as good as hers as to where they’ll end up next.
Meg blogs about secular homeschooling and gameschooling at Homeschool Gameschool.