If you stopped the average person on the street and asked them to describe a homeschooling family, you would probably get some of these terms: fanatically religious, at least half a dozen kids, shielding kids from reality. Those are the images of homeschoolers that dominate the public perception.
In the U.S., religious freedom was the force that allowed parents to forgo public education and chose private schools or homeschooling. However, religion is no longer the most important reason why families choose to educate their children at home. A 2012 study by the National Center for Education Statistics showed that 24% of homeschooling parents were most concerned “about the environment of other schools, such as
safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure”, while only 21% made their education choice due to “a desire to provide religious [or moral] instruction”.
While many of the 24% of homeschooling parents who made their decision based on safety are likely satisfied with the dominance of Christianity in homeschool curriculum and organizations, it is important to remember that freedom of religion does not apply only to the various denominations of Christianity. The Pew Research Center cites that 29.4% of people in the U.S. subscribe to a non-Christian world view, 22.8% of whom are unaffiliated, which includes atheists, agnostics, and those with no particular beliefs or interest in religion.
What does it mean to be secular?
The dictionary defines secular as “denoting attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis.” Basically, it means not doing things that have a religious foundation. Being secular is not a religion. Each person who lives a secular life is going to have a different interpretation of this lack of religion and may keep some cultural aspects of religion without belief in the miraculous. Religious people have quite literally demonized the term secular. There is nothing satanic about secular ideas, because demons and Satan are spiritual and religious entities and do not factor into secular mindsets.
What is Home Education?
Educating children at home means the parents (or any helpers they engage) are responsible for teaching children what they need to know to become self-sufficient adults. It is commonly also called home instruction or homeschooling, however it does not need to follow the structure or rhythm of institutional school. Also, all of the instruction does not actually need to be happening in the home. Various organizations provide classes to homeschooled children. Some families involve extensive travels in their children’s education.
Principles of Secular Home Education
These are the principles that apply to my family. I am not speaking for the entire secular homeschooling community, though I suspect many will agree with at least some of my points. Resources that I use in educating my children must align to these principles.
- We do not believe in or support any faith system, therefore, we will not be involved with any organization that actively promotes a particular religion.
- Not every topic has two sides of an argument. If there is no evidence that a statement is true, then it is an opinion or a myth.
- Learning about religious beliefs and traditions from around the world and throughout time help us better understand our fellow humans, but they are not absolute unquestionable facts.
- Morality is found in making the best decisions for yourself and your sphere of influence, not in the shame imposed by religion.