The homeschooling community continues to grow at a steady rate in the United States. The latest figures (www.nheir.org) show there are about 2.2 million home-educated students in the United States. There were an estimated 1.73 to 2.35 million children, grades K to 12, homeschooled during the spring of 2010. Research suggests that homeschooling grows at a rate of 2 to 8% per year. The National Center for Education Statistics reports, parents gave a number of different reasons for homeschooling their children. In the 2011–12 school year, 91% of homeschooled students had parents who said that a concern about the environment of other schools was an important reason for homeschooling their child, which was a higher percentage than other reasons listed. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the share of parents who cited “religious or moral instruction” as their primary motivation for home-schooling has dropped from 36 percent in 2007 to just 21 percent during the 2011-12 school year.
For a growing number of families religion has nothing to do with their choice to homeschool. The number of families who homeschool for reasons including religious/moral instruction has not declined, but the number of families who are homeschooling for reasons other than religious is on the rise. As homeschooling becomes more ‘mainstream’ and the number of homeschoolers who are choosing to educate their children for non-religious reasons increases the need for secular resources, curriculum, and support grows. Secular homeschoolers are still a minority within the homeschooling community, but their numbers are growing and their voice is starting to be heard. Secular homeschoolers seeking community and support often face a struggle that religious homeschoolers do not. Support groups, homeschool co-ops, curriculum choices, and national representation are not as abundant for secular homeschoolers as they are for religious homeschoolers. Local secular groups exist here and there, some states having large secular/inclusive groups, but there, as yet, does not exist a ‘national presence’ for secular homeschoolers to which they can feel a part. There is no one organization that unifies secular homeschoolers and represents their needs and conerns.
Many secular homeschoolers turn to the world wide web to find like-minded homeschoolers and secular support. Facebook has over 40 groups that are dedicated to non-religious homeschooling. These groups range from ‘atheist’ to ‘inclusive’ and represent a myriad of needs/resources, including those dedicated to secular resources and curriculum, support groups for specific secular curriculum such as Waldorf and Oak Meadow, homeschooling with media sources (i.e. Netflix, Youtube, Khan Academy), free educational/homeschooling resources, special needs homeschooling, and location specific support groups. There is also a growing number of specific groups that offer its members a truly secular environment, free of religion, such as: Military Secular Homeschoolers, Pagan Homeschooling, Homeschooling Freethinkers, Homeschooling an Only, and one for those that specifically teach evolution – a ‘hallmark’ of secular homeschooling.
Homeschooling parents, generally, share common traits that include diligence, excellent research skills, and the ability to ‘think outside the box’. Bringing those people together in one group creates an ideal environment for a new creation, an evolution of secular homeschoolers. That is where the origin of N.A.S.H. began. Homeschooling continues to reflect and represent the same demographics found in society. The landscape of homeschooling continues to expand and the mindset of society, and education, continues to be exposed to and influenced by that landscape. That expansion and influence will only continue to progress as society heads into the 21st century. N.A.S.H. will work to ensure that secular homeschoolers have an equal voice and influence for homeschooling as well as working to provide support, services, and resources for secular homeschoolers.
The Inaugural Conference for N.A.S.H., being held in Atlanta, GA September 4-7th, is a small, yet important, beginning for secular homeschoolers. The conference workshops will be conducted by secular homeschoolers for secular homeschoolers. The children/teen activities will be conducted in a secular environment. The vendors present will be providing secular resources and curriculum, only. More importantly, those who want to attend the 1st Executive sessions of N.A.S.H. are invited to do so. Over the course of three days there will be two open N.A.S.H. sessions where secular homeschoolers and secular curriculum providers, are free to share their thoughts, concerns, frustrations, and needs as secular homeschoolers. The final session will consist of the Executive Board members and all N.A.S.H. volunteers creating the By-Laws and structural foundation for N.A.S.H, which will include obtaining a non-profit status. The work accomplished in September will be the spring board for secular homeschoolers to take their place, nationally, in the homeschooling community as a unified body of home educators.
It is a small start of a big idea that will net huge benefits for secular homeschoolers.