Thursday, June 26, 2014

Why I Believe It Matters

I've talked about my personal journey; how I arrived where I currently am.  It is how I arrived and what I endured that drives me to build the National Alliance of Secular Homeschoolers (N.A.S.H.).

We are entering our 6th year of  homeschooling.  I homeschool my soon-to-be 13 year old daughter who we fondly call Punky.  She is entering the 7th grade.  Our reasons for homeschooling are similar to many families, yet, as with all families, varied and personal.  Our journey over the last five years has been filled with some 'hits' and a lot of 'misses', yet we move forward because we still believe it is the right choice for us.  Over the course of these years, I have scoured through books and the internet looking for help, answers, resources, and anything else that even pertained to omeschooling.  Sorting through all that information on homeschooling, especially in the beginning, can feel a bit like climbing a very large mountain.  Weeding through all that to find what fits is challenging and made more so when one is looking for secular materials and resources, including real life connections.

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. 
Other than searching for non-religious homeschooling supplies, curriculum (the struggle to find history and science that was taught from a secular view point was the hardest), 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.

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.  Whether you’ve had this experience or not, if you label yourself  ‘Secular’, you know how wonderful it is, or would be, to find this!  So, I began to wonder, "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, but where is the NATIONAL voice?"

Those questions and encouragement from my local group led me to start a blog.  In trying to determine a name for the blog I gave great thought to what adjective would best describe me.  I am an opinionated, expressive woman from the North living in the Deep South who isn't schooling for religious reasons.  I am not the mom who can bake, make art, or in any other way "Martha Stewart" my life.  I say the thing that no one else will say, but was thinking.  Hmm, I'm just inappropriate.  And so The Inappropriate Homeschooler was born.  I began exploring those questions on my blog and I received a small amount of interest from that and messages from other secular homeschoolers echoing my experience as their own.  That led to the start of 'The Inappropriate Homeschooler' facebook page and that in turn led to the start of The Inappropriate Homeschooler support group.  There were a lot of secular homeschoolers who didn't fit the 'mold' looking for a place to connect and speak freely.

Article after article is written about homeschooling and the overwhelming majority speak to the religious.  I understand that the homeschooling movement was brought to fruition predominately by religious 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.  Secular homeschoolers have the same rights as others to homeschool and to have a voice and a place in the homeschooling community.  I felt it was time we did something to unify that voice and take our seat at the national table.  I felt it was time, to offer homeschoolers a place where they belong, where their concerns are addressed, where their voice is heard, where a demand for good, affordable secular curricula was being made, where educational news and information that pertains to homeschooling issues or conerns, in particular, is disseminated without fear and bias, and where one feels a sense of community and connectedness.    Despites the vast differences that can be found in the secular homeschooling community the simple truth is, if 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? 

From an academic perspective secular homeschoolers seek to teach their children without regard to religion.  In particular, history is learned from an unbiased viewpoint and science includes evolution.  Religion, if or when it is taught, is a separate subject and does not permeate the view point of all other materials used.  However, that is what is easiest to define, what the academics are for secular homeschoolers.  There is a personal aspect to being a secular homeschooler though.  I couldn't think how to define it until the time when a friend, who was lamenting over her struggles as a secular homeschooler, said to me, ""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?  Why should I have to pretend?",  that I realized, THAT, is what it should mean to be secular and that is what an secular alliance should offer!  It should be a safe haven where members no longer have to pretend!
That is what is needed, an alliance of homeschoolers coming together under the umbrella of 'SECULAR' which is defined as: denoting attitudes, activities, or other ideologies 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.  

That alliance is being created, of secular homeschoolers, that advances that idea.  The organization is The National Alliance of Secular Homeschoolers (N.A.S.H.)  The vision of The National Alliance of Secular Homeschoolers is to  advance the  recognition of secular education in the homeschooling  community and to support academically secular homeschoolers.  Through the activities and involvement of N.A.S.H. at the national, state, and  local levels, secular homeschoolers will have a stronger, significantly  influential voice in the world of homeschooling. The mission of N.A.S.H. is to create an organization that develops and uses its social and political presence to educate society, and to have a positive impact, on homeschooling as it effects and reflects secular homeschoolers. In order to fulfill its primary mission, N.A.S.H. will focus on bringing greater awareness to secular homeschooling and the needs of secular homeschoolers by promoting secularism in home school education and raising public awareness of secular homeschooling.
The National Alliance of Secular Homeschoolers will be a registered 501 (c), working to address the needs of academically secular homeschooling families. We support those families that are academically secular and we are inclusive in our membership. Secular homeschoolers, as a minority within a minority, currently lack a collective voice nationwide. We hope to give secular homeschoolers that voice by bringing them together through membership in N.A.S.H. and by creating a strong, unified, and significantly influential presence through our alliance. We will also support the wider secular homeschooling community though a three-pronged approach of Advocacy, Education, and Outreach.

While the idea was born from a few, many are needed, and all are welcome. 
The 2014 Inaugural N.A.S.H. conference in Atlanta on September 4-7 is your chance to come together with other secular homeschoolers in a secular environment, and enjoy workshops, activities, and most importantly build N.A.S.H.  

 If you believe in the idea of N.A.S.H., come help build the dream.

~Mari B.

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