I am a secular homeschooler

I am a minority amongst a group of minorities.
(Using the word “minority” to mean literally “a number that is less than the whole number”, not in any way saying I have ANY idea what it means to be a racial minority.)


One cannot assume nowadays that homeschooler=Christian. BUT, truth be told….religious homeschoolers still very much outnumber the nonreligious. That fact appears to be changing, and changing quickly, as I see larger and larger groups of secular homeschoolers all over the net and locally as well. And I have a hope that someday we will be equally proportioned, simply so things will be easier for us secular homeschoolers that get really tired of having to wade through all the religious content on the web for homeschoolers. Time will tell.


But for now, my kind is in the minority and sometimes it gets very tiresome.  Why, you ask? Because in 2014, it is still very much assumed, by most people, homeschoolers and nonhomeschoolers alike, that we are all “believers.”


This is coming up right now because I just had a brief interaction with a homeschool podcaster that seemed to assume that I was a fellow “believer”…The situation was this: I was listening to a recent episode of his podcast (even though his podcast is very religious, I’d been able to get past that and glean some good info from it), where he interviewed a dad who was doing some neat things with his daughter. I went looking for their videos on YouTube and found the dad’s channel and noticed that if you clicked on “videos” it takes you to not only their uploaded videos, but the channel’s “liked” videos…and I was surprised to see that the likes were all very inappropriate, sexual, scantily clad girl videos.


I knew that this podcaster was a devout Christian, and probably would want to know that this is the content on this person’s channel, as his interview would be sending people to go check them out on YouTube. So I gave him a heads up, as well as the guy who’s channel it was (assuming he didn’t realize these videos would be side-by-side with the fun videos of him and his daughter.)


I received a reply back from the podcaster that essentially said he appreciates the heads up and that the dad in question was a long-time friend but not a “believer”…and said that because of this “non-believer” status, it could not be assumed that he had internal filters for this sort of thing.


Now, I realize that isn’t the same as “he’s a nonbeliever, therefore he doesn’t have filters”, but it pretty darn well felt like that’s what he was saying! Which immediately made me feel like “Hey buster, Christians are not the only ones with morals!”  But instead, I came up with what I felt was an appropriately respectful reply: “I hear ya. But I’m not a believer either, and I don’t find any of that content appropriate.”


2 things bugged me with his response….the implied assumption that I was also a “believer”, and of course the implication that nonbelievers have no internal filters against pornography and the like.  Both of which were erroneous.


Now, why am I so sensitive to this sort of thing? (You may be wondering.)  Because as a secular homeschooler I am CONSTANTLY…and no I’m not even exaggerating a little…bombarded with (usually very conservative/evangelical) religious content through homeschool resources on the web, interactions locally, and basically everywhere there’s anything involving homeschooling. Nonreligious homeschool content is very few and far between (though, growing, as I said before! So, YAY for that!)


I have no problem with the fact that there are religious homeschoolers…it IS a free country, afterall! Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs! But I just get SO.VERY.TIRED of finding some really neat new (to me) homeschool resource, just to find out it has religious content. Usually a LOT of religious content. And not just that…more often then not, it’s evangelical/creationist content. (A belief system that is very different than the Christianity I was raised with.) So yeah, I’m a bit sensitive to this.


Slowly, slowly, slowly, there are more secular homeschool resources being produced (our podcast is just one example)…so there is hope. And some companies ARE finally getting that not all homeschoolers are creationists (hell, not even all Christians are!)  And it’s really exciting to see! But in the meantime, there’s still the fact that every link, every article, every book, every curriculum, every podcast, every resource that I come across has to be perused for religious content. Because I simply do not want to read scripture references, nor do I want my children to read anything with content I don’t find suitable.


Now this brings me to my upbringing and how I got to where I am today. Because the funny thing is that I was raised by a United Methodist preacher. Half my childhood he was a Navy chaplain, the other half, a practicing pastor. You’d think I’d be all over the religious content, right?  I mean, I spent pretty much every single Sunday of my childhood in church. I went to Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, and I even TAUGHT Sunday School and led the church children’s choir and the Christmas pageant! But there came a time in my life when this lifestyle just didn’t work for me anymore.


You see, my brother and I were raised to think and make decisions ourselves and so my parents, once we graduated high school, removed the church requirements and let us make our own decisions. My immediate decision was that I no longer wanted to attend Sunday services. I have always found them dull. Although, in all honesty, my dad’s services are WAY less dull then a lot of the other services I’ve attended over the years. Especially since my music-loving dad always brought all sorts of fabulous modern music into his services. But at that point in my life, the church services we attended were not my dad’s, and I had just had enough of church in general. It made my parents sad, but they realized that at my age it was time for me to make my own choices and they trusted that I would find the way that was right for me. And I did.


But it took a long time for me to realize I wasn’t a believer anymore. It took years of diving into a huge variety of religions, fascinated by the different belief systems and how actually very similar they are…and learning directly from people that practiced these religions (via the new AOL chat rooms, where every belief was represented with it’s own chat room! Remember those?) And researching and learning and just being fascinated by it all. And then coming to find that NO religion works for me. I came to find that I had a much more abstract view of what “God” was. And I found peace with that.


Now, some would think that my change of heart came from religious zealousness. And I’m sure that’s true for many people. But my parents were not and are not anything like religious zealots. They are devout believers, yes. And God means EVERYTHING to them, especially my dad. And is a part of every aspect of his life, and every decision he makes. But there’s nothing particularly “conservative” or “fundamentalist” or “evangelical” about them. I would put them in an entirely different class from the Religious Right.


My parents taught us Creation and THEN Evolution…because why the heck WOULDN’T God make his creations able to evolve over time? It just makes sense. And my dad was NEVER a fire and brimstone kinda preacher. I saw him more like Pollyanna’s dad…preaching the “happy texts.” That’s the kind of dad I have…very positive, very loving in his approach to religion. So you see, I didn’t have anything to drive me away in that sense. My dad doesn’t even believe in a literal “hell”!  He told me once he sees hell more as a place where you are no longer able to be with God, and THAT would be a hell in and of itself.


I love my dad. He’s just the sweetest, kindest, coolest, goofiest, most loving guy I know! (And I married a man very much like him in so many ways it’s scary!)  He was just a fabulous dad growing up, and still is. I cannot say enough about him. Seriously NO ONE dislikes my dad! Everyone that meets him tells me what a great guy he is!  And this is a devout Christian who doesn’t constantly quote scriptures or condemn others for what they are doing that he might see as “sin.”  Yet, make no mistake, he very much believes in the “no man cometh unto the Father but by me” belief system. So I know it pained him to see me leave the church and the entire Christian belief system. It still does.


And it kills me that some people might see him as having done something wrong in raising me, if I strayed so far away from his beliefs. But I don’t think he did. I think he did something VERY RIGHT. Because he DIDN’T raise me to blindly follow my parents beliefs. He taught me to find my own way. And both my parents try very hard to be respectful of the fact that my husband and I don’t raise our children Christian. It’s not always easy, for any of us, but it all works out.


So how are we raising our kids? To come to their own beliefs. I have raised my kids to know that they have relatives  and friends that STRONGLY believe in the tenants of Christianity (and we’ve talked about what that means)…and how it’s extremely important to respect that. They know that Mommy may no longer believe in Jesus and the Bible, but she very much still believes in God, and I have been known to answer some of their questions with “because that’s how God made them/it/whatever”…when it’s something that cannot be fully explained.


So now some evangelicals would probably say that my parents should have been more strict in their teachings…but honestly, I don’t see that as working, as so many kids from strict religious upbringings continue to leave the church. I know, because I listen to a lot of Christian podcasts and hear them lamenting this fact.


Regardless of why I am the way I am, it’s my choice and I’m happy with the decision. It just feels right to me. Christianity does not. For me. But atheism doesn’t either…and being disrespectful to Christians also does not feel right to me. I have no problem with my Christian friends OR my atheist friends…but if either disrespects the other….THAT I have a problem with and I’ve been known to say so. I also have been known to slip sometimes and forget to be respectful. I am human afterall.


So, back to being a secular homeschooler…and being a minority among minorities? It’s hard sometimes. And it does make me more sensitive to religious people and religious content, just because I’m so immersed in it, wading through it literally daily on the internet. I am not exaggerating. But I also don’t want to become like the angry atheists that are downright rude about other people’s beliefs.


Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs. (My father taught me that when he caught me, at age 8, trying to convert an atheist friend. He stopped me, took my friend back to her house and apologized profusely, and had a discussion with me afterwards about why it’s not ok to disrespect those parents’ beliefs by trying to convert their little girl. Yeah. He’s that kind of an awesome guy. I never forgot that.)


But please don’t assume I’m Christian just because I’m a homeschooler and please do not assume that just because a person isn’t Christian that they don’t have morals….and PLEASE….could we PLEASE get more curriculum companies to pop up that don’t teach to the Christian world view??? PLEASE??

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  1. The religious content of the homeschooling world is a wierd challenge… many of the people I know are Christian but most tend to keep their religious beliefs relatively quiet… except Christian homeschoolers, who way too often feel that being asked to not assume everyone is Christian is equivalent to persecuting Christians. Its weird going to a homeschool group and wondering if sharing a book about dinosaurs is okay or not. Or wondering, if I host a poetry recital like I’ve been thinking about, will we end up with religious poetry? A friend told me she was at a homeschool poetry recital and there were some kids reciting poetry about how non-believers will go to hell.

    I grew up in the United Church of Canada (which I still occasionally attend), and learned a very open accepting Christianity. Whether I consider myself a Christian or not depends on the year and how I’m interpretting things at that time… but even when I’m really into Christianity, I’m not a “Christian homeschooler” because that somehow has a meaning all its own.

    1. This is, sadly, very true for my experience as well. I live in what some call “The Bible Belt of California”, and it does seem that Christianity is assumed when I am interacting with many evangelical homeschoolers. The look of surprise and confusion when I express otherwise is actually amusing. Reminds me sorta of when I lived in NJ and worked at a Jewish summer camp and the 7yr old girls in my care found out I wasn’t Jewish and had a complete look of befuddlement like “Well then what ARE you???” LOL! I still laugh about that because they truly were perplexed. And I often get that same vibe from the evangelicals around me. LOL!

  2. Thanks for sharing these thoughts..in many ways my journey mirrors yours! What you wrote encouraged me a lot..

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