You guys know me and you know that I’m pretty loud and proud about being a secular homeschooling mama. My family is committed to using modern, secular materials in our lessons and we’ve been able to stick pretty close to our ideals in the (almost) 5 years we’ve been doing this thing.
Here’s the thing though – it is not easy being secular. Particularly in the homeschooling community where we are still very much in the minority. If you’re nodding you’re head with me right now, keep reading – I’m going to go through some of the aches and pains of being a secular home educator in a predominately faith-based community.
Secular Curriculum Is a Rare Commodity
It’s been on more than one occasion that I have found myself searching the far reaches of the Interwebs, quite like digging to the bottom of a dusty bin of books, trying to find one single resource for this or that subject. We’ve all done this as homeschoolers, regardless if you’re secular or faith-based, but the search is darn near impossible if you are a family who cannot use Christian materials in your home.
I’ve written a post that has a mega list of secular curricula – and even I still have times when finding the right resource feels like an impossibility. What’s out there, easy to find and affordable, is 99% of the time faith-based products.
What the heck is up with this?!
The number of secular homeschoolers is on the rise, but the accessibility to resources that suit our needs is NOT rising proportionately. There are some AMAZING publishers releasing AMAZING products for us – but there is still a real gap in the homeschool curriculum market.
There is definitely something akin to ‘Christian privilege’ in the curriculum market – and I do NOT say that as an attack on my faith-based friends who are reading this. But, there is a bigger market for faith-based resources, because there is a bigger number of faith-based homeschooling families. It’s sort of ‘assumed’ that if one is shopping for homeschool materials, then one must naturally be religious.
We secular homeschoolers have to go searching and analyzing every product to make sure that we won’t be happily meandering our way through a lesson and then get sideswiped by a Bible verse or religious reference. The frustration is doubled when something is ‘marketed as secular’ but really actually isn’t so much.
Tweaking a Resource to “Secularize it”
This is a natural follow to the issue of there not being enough secular curriculum – and there is nothing that gets me frustrated quite like having to tweak, or add to or take from, a resource to make it work for my family.
The unfortunate reality is that this will happen. I will at some point have to wave the white flag and say, “Ok the perfect thing isn’t out there but *this* might be close if I change it a bit”. I feel angry and annoyed and frustrated when I have to do this. But…do it, I shall. Because (as I mentioned above) there just aren’t always truly secular products that fit what we are teaching.
Note: I know “bible as cultural literacy” will probably pop up in the comments, but I have a whole post on just that topic!
It’s not as easy as “oh just don’t read that bible verse, and it’s totally secular then”.
Nope. Nope nope nope.
That does NOT fly for some of us, and I’ll tell you why: when a product is written from a non-secular worldview, that becomes more pervasive than just a ‘bible verse here and there’. The religious worldview is written right into the narrative of the resource. For many secular homeschoolers, this constant thread of religious worldview can be problematic for many families. So depending on the resource, I may just have to not do the Bible lesson that is included but the rest could be totally suitable. Or, I have to basically reword and rework how the entire subject is approached.
Altering an existing product to meet the needs of a secular homeschooling family can be easily do-able, or it can be incredibly frustrating. And honestly, we really shouldn’t have to do that.
Finding Your (secular) Tribe
While it does seem that secular homeschooling is on the rise, we’re still far outnumbered by faith-based homeschoolers. So, chances are pretty good that at just about any homeschooling event – one will find oneself surrounded by religious families. Which isn’t in itself a bad thing, let me be clear about that. But there is a discomfort and awkwardness when you’re sitting with a group of homeschool moms, just wanting to share and enjoy each other’s company, and religion/God/the bible is part of nearly everyone’s vocab.
There’s a judgment that comes, whether it’s intended or not, when you answer “oh, we’re not a religious family”. You get the raised eyebrows, confused looks, or even outright hostility.
And homeschool co-ops? Fuggeddabout it! There are some secular co-ops, not in my town that’s for sure, but I do hear of great secular communities elsewhere.
It’s NOT easy to find a tribe if you are surrounded by people who think you and your kids are headed straight to heck in a handbasket. So, all I have to say about this one is: THANK YOU, INTERNET! I have found my tribe, I have found amazing secular support groups on Facebook, and I have been able to find some pretty great resources for our homeschool that ARE secular.
Without this online connection to other secular homeschoolers, I would probably have given up a LONG time ago.
Not All Secular Homeschooling Families are Atheist
I know – shocking, maybe. But MANY homeschooling families who “identify” as secular are in fact religious families. But they also are not Christian – and so have no choice but to use the products that non-religious families use.
I know secular homeschooling families who are Muslim, Jewish, Pagan, and even some Christian families prefer to use materials written from a secular perspective so they can teach their children whatever theology fits their family.
And so, even within the secular homeschooling community – we find that there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all. We’re like the Isle of Misfits: Homeschool Edition.
You’re Not Alone, Secular Mama
Despite these struggles, and these are but a FEW of the day to day issues we face as secular homeschoolers, if you’re reading this right now and you are agreeing and nodding? I want you to know you are not in it alone. If you live in a religious community, and feel like the outcast? Find us online, come join the Facebook groups, and if you can’t find us: reach out to me. Send me an email, find me on IG or Facebook.
What’s YOUR biggest struggle as a secular homeschooling family? Hit me up in the comments and let’s commiserate!