Friday, January 25, 2013

Evolution of a Secular Homeschooler

See what I did there with the title?  Clever, right?

A lot of stuff has been circulating through my life this last week or so.  I’ve been a member of a local, real-life, Secular homeschooling group for almost a year now.  I’ve been a member of an online facebook Secular support group for about the same among of time.  When I first began homeschooling, everyone I met was a religious homeschooler; specifically a Christian homeschooler.  I don’t think I was even cognizant of the term Secular homeschooler.  I knew of course that public school steered clear of, or was legally required to anyway, religious instruction, curriculum, etc.  I wanted that in our homeschooling experience and so I avoided using religious curriculum.  I graduated from a religious private school and I still remember show skewed the history and science books were.  {shudder}

Other than searching for non-religious homeschooling supplies, curriculum, resources, I didn’t think there was any ‘secular’ support for homeschoolers.  Or at least, I didn’t think I’d ever meet anyone like that.  For the first part of our homeschooling year we fluttered and faltered in and around the Christian groups.  I did not like having to sign Statements of Faith.  We found one group whose SoF was their declaration of beliefs and by signing you were agreeing to not advocate against it.  I settled for that.  It was the best I could find where we live and we did meet some great people in that group – some that I’m still friends with today.  However, it ultimately didn’t work out and neither did my attempts to establish an ‘inclusive’ group.  The good thing that came from that though was finding that some secular homeschoolers who had moved to our area heard of me and that group and while many of the religious homeschoolers found me ‘distasteful’ and referred to me as a heathen or an atheist (I might qualify for the first, but not the latter), these new to the area secular homeschoolers were drawn to the ‘least religious’ thing in town and therefore…me!  It was this group of folks who formed the Secular homeschool group that I joined after leaving behind the inclusive group.

As a side note only – because while I said I had talked myself down from the ledge and so wouldn’t be ranting – can I just tell you that for all the Christians I met in the homeschooling community that were convinced I was going to hell, not one ever expressed concern for me, wanted to pray for me, etc…- they all just seemed to want to push me closer to the gate, if you know what I mean. 
Anyway, once this secular group was formed I felt FREE.  I can’t even begin to describe what it was like to be among a group of women who, while all with different personalities, political views, religious views, etc, were so accepting and welcoming.  The one thing we all have in common is that we don’t want religion put in our face every day, in every way – including homeschooling.  This group has atheists, agnostics, believers (although they freely admit other believers wouldn’t accept them as believers), pagans, and ‘other spiritual’.  We discuss all sorts of issues and ideas – educational, political, and even religious.  No one ever agrees 100%, 100% of the time with 100% of the people and yet we move along as friends.  Whether you’ve had this experience or not, if you label yourself a ‘Secularist’, you know how wonderful it is, or would be, to find this!

Once I was with a group of ladies for whom I didn’t have to walk on egg shells, I realized I felt freer to be me.  I don’t mean I wasn’t being me prior to this, I mean I felt free inside – not having to constantly be on guard.  And that made me mad.  As a society we are hit constantly with the idea that the religious, no, that’s not right – let’s be honest – the Christians, are persecuted.  (In my opinion if you want to see persecution of religion watch what happens when a Jewish homeschooler enters the community or better yet, Muslim homeschoolers move into the area – even I had to dig deeper and be open to learning and understanding something that I fully admit the media and current events had slanted my idea of in a less than positive way.)  Now, I’m sure somewhere in the world it’s true that Christians are persecuted for their beliefs, but it sure as heck hasn’t been true in the areas I’ve lived for the last 20 years; to be ANYTHING other than Christian is what brings ridicule and ostracization.  Furthermore, to be any type of Christian other than the ‘right’ type of Christian can bring ridicule as well. 

So where’s the voice for the non-believer, or ‘different’ spiritual believer?  Where’s the voice for the secularists in the homeschooling movement?  It may be out there, here and there, in small little groups like the 12 women in our local group, but where is the NATIONAL voice?  Article after article is written about homeschooling and the overwhelming majority speak to the religious homeschoolers – usually Christian, at times Jewish or Muslim.  Don’t get me wrong, I *understand* that the homeschooling movement was brought to fruition predominately, if not exclusively, by religious (Christian) homeschoolers.  I tip my hat with sincere respect for what they went through and struggled with to achieve legality of homeschooling.  However, once something is deemed a ‘right’ it isn’t just a right for one – it is a right for all.  Secularists have as much right as any others to homeschool and to have a voice and a place in the homeschooling community.
It’s time we did something about it.  I know there is dissention among secular homeschoolers.  I know they can be as rude and unwelcoming as other types.  People get hung up the strangest things and demand others be just like them.  But, it we want to be a strong, heard presence in the homeschooling world and society, we have to by-pass those smaller differences and focus on one goal.  What goal, you ask?  First, we need to clearly define what secularism is.  I propose this definition:

Secularism is a principle that involves two basic propositions. The first is the strict separation of the state from religious institutions. The second is that people of different religions and beliefs are equal before the law.

Secularism seeks to ensure and protect freedom of religious belief and practice for all citizens. Secularism is not about curtailing religious freedoms; it is about ensuring that the freedoms of thought and conscience apply equally to all believers and non-believers alike.

Secularism seeks to defend the absolute freedom of religious and other beliefs, and protect the right to manifest religious belief insofar as it does not impinge disproportionately on the rights and freedoms of others. Secularism ensures that the right of individuals to freedom of religion is always balanced by the right to be free from religion.
Secularism is a framework for ensuring equality throughout society – in politics, education, the law and elsewhere, for believers and non-believers alike.

So, how does this work as a goal for Secular homeschoolers?  

A national organization needs to be created, of secular homeschoolers, who advance certain goals.  Let’s call the organization The National Alliance of Secular Homeschoolers or N.A.S.H.

The National Alliance of Secular Homeschoolers asserts that all homeschoolers are equal and that no religious or political affiliation should give advantages or disadvantages between homeschoolers.  Religious believers and non-religious believers have the same rights and obligations as members of society.
N.A.S.H champions human rights above discriminatory religious demands. It upholds equality laws that protect women, LGBT people, and minorities. These equality laws ensure that non-believers have the same rights as those who identify with a religious or philosophical belief.
N.A.S.H is not an atheistic organization.  Atheism is a lack of belief in gods. Secularism does not seek to challenge the tenets of any particular religion or belief; neither does it seek to impose atheism on anyone. 
The National Alliance of Secular Homeschoolers works to:

1) Provide a national framework of structure, support, and connection for those homeschoolers who identify themselves with secular homeschooling and as a by-product create a demand for secular curriculum and other materials that cater to homeschoolers,
2) Raise awareness of homeschooling, as it exists in the Secular community, in society,  
3) Provide support and guidance for current Secular homeschoolers or those interested in Secular homeschooling. 

And because it is one of my biggest pet peeves I strongly assert that while religious homeschoolers have the right to express their beliefs publicly, so do those who oppose or question those beliefs. Religious beliefs, ideas and religious homeschooling organizations must not be granted privileged protection from the right to freedom of expression. In a democracy, all ideas and beliefs must be open to discussion. Individuals have rights, ideas do not.

I strongly believe, and will work to advance the idea that, just as it should be true in society, the homeschooling community as a whole has the greatest chance of survival and growth if it works together to create a community in which all homeschoolers, those who are religious and those who are not, exist together fairly and peacefully with equal voice and presence in the advancement of homeschooling.

And that is the evolution of this particular Secular homeschooler.

~Mari B.


  1. Dude. I totally googled your NASH group and was disappointed it didn't already exist. Then I reread and felt stupid for skimming and Googling. Start it. I will march with you! Well, figuratively, as I am in Germany.

  2. LOVE IT! Now, how can we get this started up?

  3. Great idea... I would definitely sign up. It would be great to have a national group similar to HSLDA for the secular homeschoolers. I've been told that once HSLDA finds out you are not a Christian they do very little to help even if you are a paying member.

  4. Funny, I've been homeschooling for 13 years and have yet to run into this conundrum. In fact, I am a Christian but my beliefs are not that of mainstream religions, so I would never sign this "statement of faith" you mention. Anyway, what's funny is that I see so many mentioning christians and the belief that everyone who homeschools is a "Christian" and yet I've never experienced that. In our area, it seems all the homeschoolers are Pagans (wiccan, universalists, etc). We get along fine and these are some of my best friends. So I'm always surprised to hear that people have such a hard time. Perhaps it's my area of Florida? (Then again, I live in an area in which homeschooling, homebirthing, herbal medicine and such things are the norm. I am blessed!)

    Anyway.. I hope you find or put together whatever works for your homeschool.

  5. Love the N.A.S.H. concept & hope it comes to fruition!


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