By Rachel Herrick
Homeschool—a loaded term with a history that reeks of religious indoctrination and keeping children out of touch with modern society. But it’s not like that for most homeschoolers today.
Secular Homeschooling is on the rise. Secular homeschoolers value resources that do not whitewash history and utilize up to date, evidence-based information and tools. The key tenant of secular homeschooling is teaching religion as a part of history and mythology, as well as being inclusive.
Homeschooling takes privilege. The privilege of being able to have an income that can sustain a household. This requires sacrifices for a lot of families—reducing lifestyle (which isn’t always a bad thing!), jeopardizing career paths…and so much more. Eventually many homeschooling families find a balance.
Life is learning. There are so many well-curated, beautiful resources available and there are more and more options by the year. Children are natural learners. We don’t divide our time into school and not-school. We also get to learn and relearn alongside our children.
We are able to do what we want when we want. We don’t have to visit every subject every day. If the child wants to spend more time on an activity or concept, they get however much time they want. Typically, homeschoolers don’t try to recreate public school at home. We gameschool. We playschool. We sometimes are never actually-at-home-school.
Some families homeschool to meet the special needs of their children, whether a physical or mental disability or an academic gift. Some homeschool so that children may follow their passions, like the gymnast Simone Biles or the music artist Billie Eilish.
Be adaptable: All children deserve a quality upbringing and educational experience. If something isn’t working out, parents must adapt and find a better fit for the child. Same for homeschoolers—if something isn’t working out for us as a family or for our learners, we will revisit, reassess, and adapt. Even if that means enrolling them into a school or finding a more suitable approach.
Community: As with anything, many homeschoolers need a community. Whether virtual or local, we have excellent resources at our disposal. We can share success stories, commiserate, vent, and troubleshoot free of judgment. It’s a beautiful community. No community would be complete without drama and discourse, of course! There are often excellent dialogues about current events and interpretation of history. I’ve learned a lot!
Curriculum: What is it? Every state has its own guidelines for what each grade level is required to learn and know (TEKS for Texas). The materials used to meet those guidelines is the curriculum. It could be an all-in-one set from a major publisher or it could be pieced together to include materials from many different resources. For homeschooling there is so much curriculum—mostly religious. And some that label themselves “secular” actually aren’t! My favorite resource is an organization called SEA that reviews and vets curricula to make sure it is, in fact, secular and evidence-based.
Legality: Texas is a very relaxed homeschool state. Regulations are state-dependent. Some require the use of curriculum that is state-approved. Some have zero regulations. Some states give funding for homeschoolers. Many homeschoolers don’t want funding because it can be tied to regulation. This is a point of argument and discussion by all homeschoolers and views are spread across the board.
Why does our family homeschool?
For a multitude of reasons. I want more for my children's learning experience that a typical school setting can provide. We enjoy learning and teaching our children and make it fun. My spouse has a job that does not have typical 8-5 hours. Sometimes he is home by 2 pm and gets to spend all of that extra time with the family. He also travels a lot, so we are able to be flexible and tag along without being truant!
I also can’t imagine giving 100% to my previous professional career and 100% to parenthood. I see families that have it all figured out. I see families struggle with managing sick days, aftercare, attending school events, and then all of the household responsibilities. I do not prefer that lifestyle. I thought I was going to be this super star career mom but I quickly had a change of heart.
Every component of homeschooling is compatible with our humanist values. We encourage our children to think critically and explore things that interest them. We volunteer and help others, we explore the world, we are fully immersed in society and culture.
Homeschooling is our choice for our children and not a judgment of anyone else’s choice or experience. I wish everyone the ability to make choices without being forced one way or another.
If you see a homeschooler in the wild, don’t quiz them or ask them why they aren’t at school, and don’t ask them how they socialize because they are literally socializing with you!
Resources and Continued Reading:
Secular, Eclectic, Academic Homeschoolers: https://seahomeschoolers.com/
The Brave Learner, Julie Bogart, Book: https://amzn.to/2nTTcKh
From Homeschool to Harvard, https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2017/12/10/homeschool-harvard/
Curriculum we use:
Exploring Nature with Children, https://raisinglittleshoots.com/buy-exploring-nature-with-children/
Logic of English, https://www.logicofenglish.com/