Thursday, October 2, 2008

Homeschooling and atheists

Well, my sister is in a bit of a predicament. Her daughter is very advanced -- in 5th grade she's reading at an 8th grade level; she's doing pre-algebra; and is excelling in many other areas as well. My sister recognized that she was being dragged down by the schools, so when her daughter was in 1st grade, my sister pulled her out and began homeschooling her. (My sister is also very intelligent, and certainly capable of teaching her daughter.)

Well, now that a few years has passed, her daughter was really missing the social aspects of school. So they tried re-enrolling her. This worked for about two weeks. The teachers were on her case, not letting her read the advanced books she wanted to read, and refusing to teach her the advanced stuff she was ready for. Basically it was a disaster.

I just found this out last night, and I'm not sure if my sister is pulling her back out or not, but I suspect she will.

What she really needs is to find a group of other homeschoolers who get together so their kids can work together with other kids. This is actually quite common in the homeschooling community.

But there's a problem: The majority of such groups are Christian groups. By and large, the homeschooling community is largely Christian. In fact, it's hard to find materials that aren't of a Christian nature. My sister would tell people she's homeschooling, and people would automatically assume she must be Christian!

At this point, I'm not sure what my sister will do. But I can say that one thing is clear: The homeschooling community is mostly Christian, and it's unfortunate that people who want to raise their children as atheists and freethinkers don't have access to the benefits of combined homeschooling that the Christians do.

If anyone has any suggestions and ideas, I'm all ears!

p.s. I'm adding my blog to Planet Atheism. You should check it out; lots of great blogs there. See the link on the left. Sphere: Related Content


Ami said...

I found your blog via Google blog alert.

I am an atheist homeschooler. All the homeschoolers I know are either atheist or pagan. I'm guessing your sister lives in a small town?

I'm in manic, pass-the-granola Portland Oregon, and we have a thriving community of homeschoolers here. Most major metro areas are the same.

Check out A to Z Home's Cool (google it, I don't mean to spam ya by posting websites)for links to support groups in your sister's area and a TON of information about homeschooling in general.

Some groups advertise themselves as inclusive... which usually means they'll welcome anyone.

Good luck to your sister.

Dana said...

This is as an outsider, being a Christian homeschooler myself. :)

But from my vantage point, there are a lot of secular homeschool groups. The issue isn't so much one of numbers as it is one of organization.

We Christians tend to "flock together" through our churches and such, and have a nice, convenient meeting point. We don't seem to have to work toward finding each other so much.

The secular homeschoolers I know do not tend to be as interested in organization, with many objecting to the very idea of "homeschool organizations."

And the most passionate secular homeschoolers I know are actually "unschoolers" for which there are no materials. Not to put anyone in that is just from the not-so-scientific sampling of who I know.

Which is all to say that your sister's problem may not have so much to do with the number of Christian homeschoolers, but more with the differences in how we go about organizing ourselves.

And here is a list of resources that you might find helpful:

Doc's list of secular resources

Secular Homeschooling Magazine

Someone else's recommendations:

Note on Sonlight: they are a Christian company, but 90% of their materials are secular, and they have been removed from some Christian homeschool curriculum fairs because they weren't religious enough, I guess.

Anyway, that should be something to get started with. If your sister does decide to try the homeschooling route again, I'm sure you can find some people through there (especially surfing through Doc's blog) who would be more than willing to help. I would, but don't know how much she wants to talk to some whacked out fundamentalist Christian about secular homeschooling. :)

Anonymous said...

While I am not asking for details, just a general observation that without knowing the state it's hard to know what the laws are for both homeschooling, and group education outside of accredited schools, etc.

Personally, I was homeschooled and went to a church three days a week with other kids to take classes that were too advanced for my mom to teach.

Some things to think of are just posting things on her behalf looking for other home schoolers in the area that might need help. She could start her own group if she had the energy to, but that's a lot to take on, I know.

Another thing is to find out the exact reasons why the teachers wouldn't allow her to advance, and if they were justified I would fight that, and if they were not I would seek the means to get it righted. Even if they do not enroll her back into public school, I hope someone in that district has realized that kids need the chance to advance and be challenged.

Finally, and the worst answer I could give you, is that if there is a Christian home school group that has the means to get her the best education...then you could think about having her suck it up and do things that way until a better option presents itself.

I know that it's not appealing, putting your child into a religious setting like that, especially when they are under no legal laws telling them they cannot try and preach the Bible whenever they please...

But like at the center I went to I got legitimately good people, all educated at public colleges and having a decent amount of knowledge on the topics they taught, and there is no way I could have got the same kind of learning experience from just reading a book on my own at home.

It's a crappy situation, but personally I would rather have my child given the best possible education experience, regardless of relgious ideas behind the people teaching them...if the only alternative was a mediocre education that agrees with my religious beliefs, or lack there of.

Anyway, best of luck you and to them both.

Anonymous said...

I am a member of your myspace page and I just finished reading your blog. I immediatly thought to look for some websites that may be able to help your sister out in her dilemna...
I dont know if she has been to these or not, but I thought I would put them out there if they should be of any help at all.

This link seems to be a page that has multiple resourse for secular homeschooling programs:

I found this actual online homeschool. Dont know if that is something she is interested in but I will link it.
There was also this school:

Also has she thought about buying curriculum's from the public schools in her area?

Anyhow, Sorry to flood your post with links but I hope that these links may help your sister out.

Jsyn said...

I went to a christian school growing up, it was much like home school. If the only material is like what I had to learn, I feel sorry for her. I want to home school my daughter later in life, when she gets to middle school, because of all the pressure of peer pressure which effects learning.
I'm hoping they come out with non-christian material by the time she gets that age!

Candace said...

You're getting some wonderful advice and sources here!

My sister put her daughters in a Christian school, briefly, thinking that a good education was worth overlooking some things. That is, until my brother, a scientist, asked the youngest daughter if she knew where wine came from (they were driving past some vineyards) and the little girl answered, "The blood of Christ." Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!!!!

Have you heard of Camp Quest? It's a summer camp for children of atheists, freethinkers, humanists, etc. Google it. There are camps in several states.

rickroll said...

i'm glad to hear that your daughter is catching up with the education systems of the better part of the world. in Japan and Russia, for example, Calculus is taught in 8th grade. our country has some of the worst education in all of the industrialized world. homeschooling is perhaps the only viable answer at this point in time. that being said,i don't have any helpful advice. i was just giving you the kudos for the decisions that you've made so far

Jessica said...

We're atheist homeschoolers. The "secular" groups we found were unwelcoming and bizarre in a "crystals and auras" kind of way. Our best fit is with a Christian homeschooling group. I'd suggest visiting every group within reasonable driving distance and checking for a good match. You never know which one is going to really click. :)

The religious stuff my son is exposed to only serves to cement his non-beliefs anyway. ;)

Jessica said...

Oh, and it occurs to me to ask exactly what she is looking for in a group? Mom to mom support and social outlets for the kids? Co-op classes? An entire umbrella school that serves up curriculum and testing?

That will really affect what kind of group she's looking for. I would never again do co-op learning with creationists. BAD BAD idea. I will also never give up my park days and social events with those same people. :)

Karen said...

I am an atheist homeschooler!
Listen, there are LOTS of us out here, make sure to do the research and you will not be disappointed!
Check out my blog "Homeschool Atheist Momma":