There’s a growing segment of the homeschooling community who label themselves as secular, including
myself. There is some variation from family to family as to what that means, but we all collectively
agree that while religion has its place, that place either isn’t in our education at all, or strictly as a subject of study.
It’s sometimes a challenge to be a secular homeschooler in a community that is largely religious. We are fish swimming upstream, and it can be frustrating to find understanding and acceptance. We often face ridicule or discrimination, when at the end of the day we’re trying to just do right by our children, like any other parent.
When I introduce myself and my family as secular homeschoolers people often respond in a variety of remarkably predictable ways, and I’ve decided that I should write a primer on things you shouldn’t say to a secular homeschooler.
1. “Oh! You homeschool? God must have granted you the gift of patience!”
I struggle with patience, and I’m sure most parents do. Children are stressful little balls of energy, and I can only repeat the same instructions so many times before I lost my mind. I’m pretty sure anyone who suggests otherwise is lying. But frankly, it’s not my level of patience, or lack thereof, which bugs me about this statement. It’s the suggestion that I must only be able to homeschool because of the intervention of some higher power. I homeschool because I believe it is best for my own children, and I struggle through the day-to-day tedium because of *that* belief.
2. “I know this great curriculum! It’s written by GodIsAmazeballzCurriculumCompany, but it’s not
*that* religious! You can skip over those parts.”
I don’t want to teach my children from a curriculum that I need to censor. I don’t want to have to go through worksheets and texts, trying to determine if a particular textbook aligns itself with my belief system – and I don’t believe ANY family should have to do so. There are plenty of resources for families who home educate for religious purposes, and they are entitled to curriculum that matches their belief system. I am entitled to the same standards. I have no interest in investing in a curriculum that only half-satisfies my needs. Please don’t tell me Answers in Genesis is just the thing I need. It isn’t.
3. “How do you teach your kids right from wrong, if you don’t teach them about Jesus?”
I teach my kids right from wrong, without religion. I teach them to be kind, and respectful, and to make good decisions, but not because a deity says we should be. I teach them all of those things because I believe they make us better people. Because kindness should stretch beyond what god we worship.
4. “I can’t imagine teaching my children we evolved from chimpanzees. If we evolved from chimpanzees, why are there still chimpanzees?”
This statement is going to elicit two responses from me. First, I am going to repeatedly bang my head against the closest wall. And then second, I’m going to stop and educate you on the principles of evolution. Please save both of us the hassle, and keep this little gem to yourself. Take a good, long look at kids on a playground, behaving like chimpanzees, and tell me we don’t have a common ancestor.
5. “If you wanted a secular curriculum, why don’t you send your kids to public school?”
I homeschool for a variety of reasons, all of which have to do with what’s best for my children. Different learning styles, a desire to avoid bullies, safety, anxiety. A desire to not pressure my children to perform under duress, created by mass testing. A whole plethora of reasons – none of which have anything to do with religion. I don’t find that public schooling is the best fit for my children. Period.
6. “I’ll pray you find God’s guidance.”
You can pray for God’s guidance all you’d like… I’ll rely on my Tom-Tom for that.
7. “I believe in a young Earth.”
That’s cool. I believe in carbon-dating. Because, science!
8. “I don’t want my kids around you, you’re a bad influence.”
This hurts my heart. I have wonderful children, a loving family, and a terrific sense of humor. I love kids, I enjoy watching them grow and explore. I thrill at watching our kids work together to solve a problem or invent a game. My secular homeschooling, and my lack of religion, shouldn’t change any of that. I’d like to think that I’m a decent human being, doing my best to make it through every day with kindness and goodness, and that those things are all something we can share. I hate to hear that you think I’m incapable of goodness because I don’t have a religion, or because we don’t teach creationism. I can assure you, we can both learn something from one another, as can our children.
Secular homeschoolers aren’t all that different from religious ones. We all want what we believe is best for our kids, and at the end of the day, that’s the most important. Sure, we get there using different means and paths, but we share the same desire to make sure our children get the best education we can possibly give them. And despite our differences, I believe that our desire to give our kids the world, and all its’ beauty, should bring us together as a community.
Not Supermom is a secular homeschooler, and her family is finishing out their second year of home education. She loves to bake, and garden, and watch Doctor Who for entirely too many hours at a time. She loves a good knock-knock joke.