Monday, April 28, 2014

Why Should I Have to Pretend?

Secular Homeschooling in the Secular Community

There has been a bit of a hullabaloo in my neck of the woods the last week or so.  In the midst of the hullabaloo was the issue of being secular.  Sadly, the issue was inside a homeschool group that carries 'secular' in its title.  One would think that a secular group, that displays the word in its title, would have a clearly defined working use of the word secular.  However, no matter how well defined, it is apparent that the word means something different to each secular homeschooler and unless the word is defined to the ninth degree, there is room for interpretation.  Who knows, maybe even when it is defined to the ninth degree there would be room for interpretation.

I could sit here for hours and blog about what *I* think secular means, how it should be defined in the homeschooling community, and who should and should not join a secular homeschooling group.  I have my opinions on the subject and have even blogged, a time or two, on the subject.  It was my intent to blog on the subject, yet again, give the recent events I witnessed and to a certain degree, was involved.  It was my intent to find a way to define it, explain it,  yet again, but I was lost as to how to approach the subject.  Then  a friend, who was *very* upset over what was happening in the 'secular' group actually said to me, with real strain in her voice, "Why should I have to pretend?".  That I realized, THAT, is what a secular group should be!  It should be a safe haven where members no longer have to pretend!

My dear friend, who I hated to see so emotionally shaken, lamented further, "Why should I have to pretend to be something I'm not?  Why should I have to walk on egg shells?  Why should my children be ostracized for who they are?  Why should I give in and thereby teach them that something is wrong with us?  Why should they learn that unless they change who they are there is no acceptance?"

These are some powerful questions.  Questions that as adults we all have struggled with at one time or another for one reason or another.  Secular homeschoolers have struggled with these issues, I would hazard to say, a lot more often than religious homeschoolers, for sure.  But are these issue we, as secular homeschoolers, should still be struggling with when were are members of groups where we supposedly belong? 

Homeschooling groups that call themselves 'inclusive' should be inclusive: open to everyone; not limited to certain people.  ALL are welcome, or at least should be.  ALL are treated decently as human beings.  None are being judged for their beliefs, lifestyle, economic position, etc.  Homeschooling groups that call themselves 'secular' should be welcoming of and open to all those who identify with being secular (secular: denoting attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious basis) or at least identify as secular homeschoolers.

It's widely assumed that I am an atheist or at the very least an agnostic.  I share many memes on the IH facebook page that poke fun of various religions, predominately Christianty.  I poke at other faiths as well, but since Christianity is the religion that PERMEATES my society, it is the one that I poke at the most.  Truth be told I cannot stand, for the most part, organized religion. Period.  Be it Christian, Jewish, Islam, or 'other'.  I believe that organized religion is, in large part, the bane of a civilized society.  However I am not an atheist nor am I agnostic.  I have my personal, spiritual beliefs and they are mine....personally.  They are based upon my own personal experiences, personal observations, personal understanding, and personal study.  Everyone's spiritual beliefs, or lack of, are personal.  They are based upon their own personal experiences, personal observations, personal understanding, and personal study.  It just so happens that A LOT of folks read the same book and are together in their 'personal experiences', raised in a belief that is reinforced through familial study, culture, etc.    

The problem results from certain writings in various 'religious' texts that tell its followers to convert the heathens, or to inflict death upon the infidels, or punish the unbelievers.  There are all sorts of insidious writings within the supposed 'sacred texts' of various religions that one can use to keep another suppressed, at the very least, in bondage or slavery in worse case scenarios, or put to death as the final eradication of a human being that the 'sacred texts' state are fully justified.  Why?  Man wrote them.  Yes, yes.....the believers will argue that God wrote it, but listen, at the very most man put 'pen to paper' and wrote what he *thought* God was telling him to write and at the very least man wrote what he wanted to, what he thought was going to advance whatever position he was trying to advance at that moment.  Anything else is absurd.  Today a person tells you God speaks to him, actually speaks and that person is labeled 'mentally troubled' and in need of psychological care; but if it is someone who claimed the same over 2,000 or years ago and it is in a book labeled as 'sacred' it is all good?   Hmmm, I am really digressing here.

In a secular group, any secular group, one should be able to expect to find attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis.  To many that means that by attending a secular group one will not be asked by others what religion they are, would they like to come visit their church, or be asked to pray for someone/something.  In a homeschooling group that is secular one would expect to find the members teaching real science, as real science means teaching evolution.  Creationism (if taught at all) would be taught in a mythology/creation stories class or in a comparative religion class.  But being in a secular homeschool group goes deeper than that.  It means that as a parent you are not worried if your children discuss their love of all things Harry Potter, their obsession with gaming, their manner of dress or speak, or really anything else that they could in fact 'catch flack' over in non-secular homeschooling groups.  There is an expectation that your children will not be shunned for not attending church, for liking the same music that adults like,  for uttering such phrases as 'Oh my God'.  At the heart of a secular homeschooling community there is the expectation that we and our children will be accepted, rather than shunned, for being different, unique, ourselves.

Sadly that isn't the case.  People are people no matter with which group they identify.  I would like to believe that secular homeschoolers, who have been on the blunt end of discrimination stick in religious homeschooling communities since the beginning of homeschooling, would be more accepting of one another.  In many ways I think there is more acceptance in the secular homeschooling community.  It is rare to find those in the secular homeschooling community who would blink an eye, let alone turn their head, over certain occurrences in society today, examples being mixed-race marriages/children, gay couples, or women in the workforce.  I would be shocked to attend a secular homeschooling event and hear negative talk regarding any of those three topics, in fact I'd be a little surprised to hear any talk regarding those situations as they are common and commonly accepted in the secular communities I attend both in real life and online. 

But there are other ways that secular homeschoolers turn a blind eye to that main idea that *should* unite us all (that we are secular homeschoolers, a minority of a minority), and we focus on personal choices and insecurities.  I would like to think that it would matter not, in a secular homeschooling group, if you were organic or processed, a vaxer or anti-vaxer, a peaceful parent or a spanker, an unschooler or a traditionalist, a liberal or conservative, and on and on and on.....  But it does matter because people are VERY defensive regarding their PERSONAL choices.  I am finding it more rare than I hoped it would be, in the secular community, locating people who have the courage of their convictions tempered with the acceptance of differences.

That is what secular homeschooling should be.  That is what is needed to unify us.  That is what it means to not have to pretend.  A large (larger than the rest of the homeschooling community thinks) group of homeschoolers uniting together under the umbrella of 'SECULAR' which is defined as: denoting attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious basis; a unified community that promotes and celebrates individuals who secularly homeschool and live their lives with the courage of their own convictions while tempered with the acceptance of the different choices and paths of others in the same secular organization.

No one should have to pretend.  No one. 

~Mari B.


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