Homeschooling Without God


#1

Homeschooling Without God
JAWEED KALEEM


MAR 30, 2016

The modern homeschooling movement is one of revolt. From its humble beginnings in the ’70s, led by graduates of the hippie generation who saw public schools as too constrained and religious, to its pop-cultural peak in the ’80s and ’90s under conservative Christians who wanted more God and less evolution in the classroom, homeschoolers and their parents have pushed aggressively against mainstream education.

Today, there are more than 1.7 million homeschooled kids in the U.S., roughly double the number of those at the turn of 21st century. Religious families, nearly exclusively Christians, make up more than two-thirds of them, and religious curricula and social groups dominate the community. In states where homeschoolers are required to be part of a larger “umbrella school” to meet government learning standards, those networks are frequently organized by churches.

“More and more people want to teach their particular set of values and beliefs in schools and not have the state do it,” said Brian D. Ray, the president of the Salem, Oregon-based National Home Education Research Institute, who has studied homeschooling for three decades. As the number of “atheists, agnostics and secular people grow, there are more of them homeschooling, too.”…
There are a lot of hurdles to success in homeschooling: meeting state guidelines, making sure your child gets a high school degree, helping your child compete for college admissions, and more. Non-religious families face an additional challenge: finding lesson plans, qualified teachers, and daytime social groups that aren’t overtly religious. …

When Smith decided to homeschool her son and started searching online for resources, she realized most homeschool families are Christian. Eventually, she started following secular homeschooling message boards and Facebook groups to figure out which lesson plans are atheist-friendly and which science books and instructors will teach evolution. Finding non-religious resources has been difficult at times. “You can’t even buy a planner sometimes without there being Bible verses on it,” she said.

Many atheist, agnostic, and non-religious kids and parents credit social media with helping them realize there are others like them. In nearly every place in the U.S. where there are homeschoolers, there are organized “park days” where kids get together weekly to play with other kids, go on field trips, or participate in sports. The California Homeschool Network, an extensive but incomplete compendium of resources in the state, lists 47 Christian homeschool-support and park-day groups, and seven that are secular. But across the state and country, there are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of secular homeschool Facebook groups where moms and dads post photos, hatch ideas for social gatherings, and discuss their struggles and successes with state laws.

Bias disclosure time: My wife and I homeschooled our munchkins “K-12”. While we are Evangelical Christians, our initial/primary reason was that we did not trust the academic quality of public schools. Family closeness became a second reason, as we started looking into homeschooling, and the stereotypical “religious reasons” came (chronologically) third, as we discovered how hostile to Christian ideas public schools were becoming. Stereotypes are often oversimplifications based on facts, but we didn’t know of the stereotype so we didn’t know we should fit it.

Please indulge me a bit farther … because of several key “mentor”-like experienced homeschoolers who helped us a lot, after several years and recognizing a particular need, we started a homeschooling support group. This took us in several directions, organizing the group and activities, “collecting” information resources, the group growing to ~120 families in the first 4 years, volunteering at a regional and a statewide homeschooling convention. I also, in the late 90s and early 00s was very involved in several homeschooling discussion sites, one Christian-focused, two mixed Christian, other, and secular. I apologize for being long-winded, but all this verbosity gives context to my comments that follow.

Sadly, the Christians-secular divide among homeschoolers is a long one, dating to the mid-1980s. I won’t try to assign blame, as it’s probably a very long chain of events, of which I know but a little. From my perspective and observation, secular homeschoolers, especially of a particular education philosophy dating to the 1970s and a particular pioneer, resent Christian homeschoolers. Those secular homeschoolers view Christians as newcomers who aren’t faithful to (their particular) homeschooling philosophy, and have brought into homeschooling a foreign element, “fundamentalist” Christianity. They view homeschooling Christians as not “real” homeschoolers. I’m not exaggerating, and have actually understated the conflict some by glossing over the animosity.

I understand, to some degree, the feelings tied to newcomers, who have different concerns, different manner of life, and different methods. It’s a sub-set of all kinds of inter-cultural conflict, though, obviously, not violent. What I don’t understand is animosity and rejection, from either direction (though I have seen little or no such from Christian homeschoolers toward secular or “other” homeschoolers).

10 or 30 years ago, the MSM discovered that those homeschoolers they had painted as Christian zealots actually included a significant minority from other or no religion. The ~2/3 number given by HSLDA (later in the article) is down from the ~3/4 number I heard from a Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) leader some 20 years ago. So every few years the MSM recycle that discovery - or reassure their readers that not all homeschoolers are nutjob fanatics - in an article like this one. It’s an amusing pattern to me, since I knew of secular homeschoolers pretty much from when we first started investigating homeschooling (mid 1980s).

When we first began homeschooling, resources were more scarce. Many textbook companies wanted nothing to do with homeschoolers and/or didn’t have the structure to sell to individual families or distributors. A few did, mostly Christian publishers like Bob Jones University Press and A Beka.

Similarly, there were not a lot of local homeschooling support groups back then. The article cites the statewide organization in CA, California Homeschool Network, who lists 47 support groups, Independent Study Programs, and co-ops. CHN is one of 3 statewide homeschooling organizations in CA. CHN is kind of in the middle of the secular-religious divide. On the more secular side is HomeSchool Association of California; on the Christian side is Christian Home Educators Association of California. All three are significant organization in term as of membership. Further, CA has 58 counties. and I don’t want to guess how many largish towns and cities. IOW, there’s a whole lot more support groups, ISPs, and co-ops than the 47 CHN lists.

All that said - believe it or not, I do have a point - resources for secular homeschoolers who want to avoid religious curricular materials and groups where religious concerns and ideas are prominent are not plentiful. I sympathize, to some degree, but at the same time recognize that this “problem” is to a great degree self-created and -imposed. There’s some irony in a couple of the significant information resources used in this article. It identifies HSLDA as a Christian organization (while HSLDA was founded by Christian homeschoolers, its members and cases are not Christians-only). What it doesn’t mention is that Dr. Brian Ray, founder of National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) is also a Christian. For all the bellyaching and venom of some secular homeschoolers (they hate HSLDA and NHERI) they have been less than diligent about creating equivalent resources, despite having the sort of needs HSLDA and NHERI serve. The logic of trying to tear down groups like HSLDA, NHERI, and Christian statewide homeschooling groups - HSLDA and Christian statewide groups have had a lot of mud tossed at them - without addressing the needs those groups serve eludes me.


#2

Welcome to the world of hate. This is a problem nationwide. Although our kids were not home schooled, my oldest daughter does homeschool her four later children. ( these kids are adopted because of the horrendous home situation they came from and my daughter deemed it best to keep them out of the public eye and nasty student repercussions) She hit many roadblocks because of her Christian convictions. But the state she lives in finally came around when she was able to get the legal help she needed. But I hear the horror stories from across the nation and it truly saddens me.


#3

The Entire Public School System is designed for Atheists, all of their points of faith are taught as fact and all facts that do do not support their faith are prohibited/censored; what possible reason would an Atheist have for wanting to home school?

Atheists are a tiny minority but their faith is forced down the throat of everyone who won’t stand up to their militant evangelism methods, as long as I am forced at gunpoint to pay for the teaching of their religion in public schools I will not spend one drop of concern over their lack of home school curriculum support.


#4

My father was homeschooled as were a LOT of others. Dad was like many, over a days RIDE (not drive) on a horse from the nearest school house. Certainly the tools to teach were not readily available at that time and by the time my Dad got to town the malls were closed anyhow.

Home schooling was basic with its focus on the 3 ‘R’s’: Readin, Rightin, and Rithmetic.

So what were my young dads learn to read materials? Family Bible, copy of US Constitution, copy of Declaration of Independence…

Sorry folks, but those days are long gone and will not likely ever return…


#5

In most states, you don’t need to go through one of the fundamentalist Christian setups in order to home school your kids. You can basically just declare your kids as being home schooled. You don’t need to send in their work for review or anything. You could just get regular secular school books and be fine. If you used the previous edition, you could get an entire year’s worth of books for about $30 on Amazon.
Not that I even think you’d need a lot of secular designed books. The fundamentalist history and science books are the only ones I’d consider suspect, but the secular history books in modern schools suffer their own equally bad problems.

Not that books are even the best way to teach most children. If you happen to have a reader, awesome. Throw a book at them and let them learn. But most people don’t learn very much from reading. The nice thing about home schooling, is that you can custom tailor your child’s learning experience. Books shouldn’t even be the primary focus for 4/5 of kids, anyway.


#6

Every state’s laws that are relevant to HSing is different. Some require notification of intent to HS, with an Individual Education plan. CA doesn’t speak to HSing at all. CA HSers either file a R4 Private School Affidavit, which declares that they are a private school, or they enroll in an Individual Study Program, which files the R4 (or is part of a PS) and oversees the family. There are non-religious ISPs, and there is no religious requirement for any state’s individual notification process (that I’ve heard of).

Things have changed drastically from the dark ages of the late 70s and early 80s, when only one textbook publisher was willing to sell textbooks to HSers. The array of what is available is amazing, many are other than"fundamentalist" Christian. And one the oldest HSing philosophies/methods, “Unschooling” (John Holt), doesn’t use textbooks at all.

> The nice thing about home schooling, is that you can custom tailor your child’s learning experience.

PSs and private campus-based schools tend to be largely one-size-fits-all. Most kids adapt; some thrive; for some it’s awful, and every year builds “failure” on “failure”. The flexibility in HSing is awesome when the parents take advantage of it. E.G., when our son was 16ish, he was working to earn Eagle rank in Scouting, was advancing in Karate and taking classes at the local JC, was learning drums, and got a job at KFC (where he became an assistant manager a year later) - all because those were his interests.


#7

If the anti-religious home schoolers want more books to accommodate them, why don’t they get together and create them, or at least make solid requests for them?


#8

Secular textbooks are pretty readily available nowadays, and have been for a decade or two. Whether any atheist or humanist group has produced specialized anti-religious textbooks, I don’t know. Secular textbooks can sell into PSs (sometimes to private schools), as well as to HSers, and, similarly, religious publishers like Bob Jones University Press and A Beka sell into private schools as well as to HSers. Specialized anti-religious textbooks, hypothetically, would pretty much be selling to anti-religious HSers, a pretty tiny market, so such textbooks may not exist.


#9

It is true that public schools are cesspools of atheism, Marxism, and communism. But, one thing is forgotten and that is that the “education” one receives from these government entities is as poor as poor can get. I suppose that atheists who choose to homeschool are hoping to bring scholarship and excellence to their children. They will never find that in a public school…especially in mathematics (Commie Core) and science. In addition, most public schools no longer teach spelling, geography, handwriting, English grammar & composition, amongst other basic disciplines. And, there’s always revisionist history. So, although atheists would not be offended by the anti-Christian atmosphere of public schools, they may not like the fact that their children are being dumbed down.

As a teacher for many years, I worked with many homeschooling families. It has been my experience that homeschooling began as a result of God being taken out of public schools and replaced with Marxist thought and ideology. The movement was largely begun by Christians and grew and developed by Christians and Christian groups. But, that is MY experience. I have only encountered a handful of families who failed to educate their children by homeschooling and that is usually because the parents let their children do whatever they wanted. I can’t think of a single homeschooled child who didn’t go on to college with a homeschooled high school education. Homeschooling has exploded since the 70’s and 80’s.

Oh, one more note: The Hildabeest once stated in front of an audience that Homeschooling is the worst type of child abuse. I’d call her a pig, but that would insult and demean pigs.


#10

There have been a number of homeschooling parents/groups who began to publish their own textbooks. There is the “Catholic Textbook Initiative” writing history and science books from a Catholic perspective. Wonderful textbooks–especially the science books. I believe that Abeka books, a Christian book service created their own textbooks for homeschoolers. I used them in our schools in the early 90’s because at that time, there were no good Catholic textbooks available. There were some things that did not apply to the Catholic faith and some that were hostile to Catholics. In those cases, I just tore the pages out of the books or used a permanent black marker to mark out the passages that were not appropriate. Very simple solutions. There was a “book depository” in south Florida where you could go and get tons of textbooks free on Wednesdays. Many homeschoolers went there, too. They did the same thing–they used what was appropriate and discarded the rest. You could also get used school equipment such as desks, chairs, sewing machines, and all sorts of other equipment. It was a huge warehouse full of stuff.