Contingency: Pros & Cons of Homeschooling and the Parent’s Philosophy

Amidst the never-ending questions and debates about the pros and cons of homeschooling, I find some solace in my seemingly independent belief that we greatly blow this out of proportion. This is no rocket science. The quality of a child’s homeschool experience is directly related to the parents’ philosophy.

Whoever told you homeschooling was homogeneous? I would like to believe that in time we will continue to break the molds that form our common stereotypes. Alas, my knowledge of history begs to differ.

As humans, we find great utility in compartmentalizing. In fact, philosophically we cannot function any other way. There are thousands of beliefs that we must accept without proof. We must take for granted some things, leaning upon the work and evolution of generations past. This is a characteristic that Alexis de Tocqueville overemphasizes in his book about American democracy, Democracy in America (1835).

We love generalized ideas because they save us time. They are pragmatic. As pragmatic Americans, we are in a rush, always. And while we cannot live without such ideas, we over-indulge.

Again I will repeat, whoever told you homeschooling was homogeneous?

I’ve heard a saying several times. They say that no two homeschools are alike, just as no two fingerprints are the same. How silly.

How silly that this resonates so strongly with us. We have described the essence of life itself and folded its corners around our cause.

On the one hand, please do not interpret me as one who holds disdain for your unique snowflake syndrome, for I am promoting it. On the other, as we stroke our egos I should cry out once more, “homogenous!”

The gravity of our choice to press our thumbs into our children’s foreheads should be almost crippling. Can our courage withstand long enough to survey the alternative? Look! Their necks in clamps, jerked to the moan of the machine, assembly lines stamp a barcode to their skulls.

Have you watched this machine with me? Like me, have you quietly traced the ridges of a barcode that would not scan while he cries into your bosom?

We know the barcodes do not always scan. We know how perilous it is to be clasp around the neck. When the floor drops out from beneath our feet, can we really complain that we dangle by our chins? Days ago it was more pragmatic to accept this fate.

But turn for a minute. Look, there, towards the corner. Backs turned, they face the corner where flames are dancing.  They fan the flames, one day hoping to be taken up in the flames.The flames leap higher.

Wait.

Not so quickly. See, even closer to the wall others are pointing at the shadows. Another group builds their own conveyor belt. Have they not realized there is no such thing as safe floors? With your eyes open, do you see the people running? Do you see the technical minds developing videos of those same shadows?

Our traits are magnified. As we take control, the beauty of our swirls and patterns is amplified. And the crevices in between fissure deeply.

If he could, I believe he would beg, “press gently.”
Have you recognized your thumbprint?

You reached out to me asking for the pros and cons. I hope you now realize you must learn your own patterns. Learn your own crevices. Now, you tell me the pros and cons of homeschooling.

How Secular Homeschoolers Should Teach Religion

Before I’m judged for using “teach religion” in the title I want to make something very clear. I’m a secular homeschooler. But that does not mean I am not open-minded. I am an inclusive homeschooler. What I mean is that I am willing to consider any type of resource, curriculum, advice, co-ops, and so on if I believe it might be the best available. I’m also unwilling to teach a narrow worldview or shield my children from religion — just as some religious homeschoolers attempt to shield their children from the secular world.

Religion heavily influences society

There is no getting around it, religion permeates our society. This is an election year, so we really get the full dose. We may have a separation of church and state, but that doesn’t mean that religion isn’t fully involved.

Although ‘statistically’ the number may be dwindling, most people in the United States hold a religious belief. Even if some of these polling sites are biased, the number is large.

I’m sure some secular homeschoolers believe that ‘religious education’ is completely unnecessary as an aspect of their homeschool. Maybe it can just be handled under the ‘parenting’ category.  I disagree. I think that is a little unrealistic considering the weight and influence that religion had on the past. History will always be infused with religion. And, from a literal and somewhat philosophical standpoint, everything that we learn is history. Everything we know is from the past. Religion influenced science, literature, politics, and wars. It was the leading proponent of education.

Most secular families that I know have religious family members. I exalt respect as one of the highest virtues. Personally, I would never, ever want to shame a member of my family.

Religion is all around us

Religion is on our money. Religion is in the Pledge of Allegiance. People exclaim “bless you,” after a sneeze. You can find it on mottos, in schools, pop songs, bumper stickers, and so on. “God” is literally part of our cultural language.

I think we should be reserved in our approach to addressing such issues. Personally, I would never want to raise angry children that push back on all things religion. But that is a risk I see when we want to quickly explain or dismiss such matters.

Most readers probably agree with me at this point. I don’t think I’ve said anything too terribly controversial. Nevertheless, I don’t think that many of the secular homeschoolers I have met devoted enough curriculum ‘time’ to religion. Of course, we do not want curriculum that is filled with Bible verses. We don’t want information distorted to favor one religious worldview. And, worst of all, the possibility for complete misinformation. But I think we should be spending plenty of time making sure that our children truly understand religion. There is a reason that religion and culture is a very common ‘introductory’ class that many colleges suggest for freshmen students.

You have a very rare opportunity

humanism

I won’t discuss my reasons for homeschooling in depth. But, one reason that I homeschool is the humanist aspect. (So much value is lost in public schools. So many opportunities, wasted. The structure and method are so confining and do so little justice to our rich history.) And your ‘rare’ opportunity is the ability to teach religion without religious interference.

Maybe I should have started this post with the question, “what is religious education?” I believe that if someone is religiously educated they received ‘training’ or ‘introduction’ to all religions. People in the United States so quickly assume that ‘religious education’ means Christian textbooks. It could not be farther from the truth.

Religion (generally) gets in the way of religious education

You have the rare opportunity to really teach religion. When a religious person teaches religion, they teach religion from their angle. Religion starts with their religion and moves forward. In religious education, children are always either taught one belief system, or they aren’t really learning anything. Beneficial, rich, and wholesome religious education includes many religious, cultural, and historical perspectives.

You have the unique opportunity to teach these things without the emotional ties. You can celebrate all the religious holidays. They can all be learning experiences. There is so much to learn from religion.

Think of all the field trips

Think of all the wonderful field trip opportunities you have! Every major religion near you will likely be open to giving you a tour. When you teach religion to your children you will be able to identify some people (in public) as being religiously affiliated based on their clothes and symbols. You’ll be able to appreciate religious landmarks. The list goes on and on.

Respect their fun learning experience

Events with religious ties can be fun! Bible stories can be fun! Some of the most beautiful artwork is religious. There is no need to be a ‘downer’ when your child has the opportunity to enjoy a religiously themed event, or to appreciate a masterpiece, or to listen to a new tale.

Do the subjects their rightful justice

inside-philosophy

You might have been raised in a secular house. Or, you might have a religious background. If you are not educated in a spectrum of religions it would be a shame if your ‘lack of experience’ was a buzzkill. When you get the opportunity to tell/teach your children the story of Siddhartha, don’t half-ass it because you don’t believe it, or don’t understand it. When your child encounters the creation tale or another biblical story, greet it with enthusiasm. Some atheists claim that religion is no different than Santa Claus.

Some atheists claim that religion is no different than Santa Claus. For a multitude of reasons, I would disagree. Nevertheless, would you kill a child’s joy of believing in Santa or the Tooth Fairy just because you didn’t have faith in it?

Faith is never the problem

Something to keep in mind — faith itself is never the problem. Faith is an outward or inward projection of a belief. We all have beliefs and we all have faith. If we may dive much deeper into the philosophical trenches for a moment, we cannot function without faith. We cannot prove in the strong sense of the word. We lack control over most aspects of our lives. Don’t let your seemingly autonomous life convince you otherwise. On faith and layers of empirical experience you expect that when you go to sleep tonight that the sun will greet you in the morning. You embrace each day with faith that your partner will stay faithful to you. You place a great deal of faith into our currency. If someone questions you, you understand that our little slips of paper aren’t actually ‘backed’ by anything. And, even if they were, we still use that paper symbol in faith that it will continue to hold its value.

Faith is never the issue.

Your children will eventually have friends that are religious. Those religious friends can do amazing things for this world — for your life and your child’s life. Just because they have faith in a higher power does not undermine their positive actions in this world.

Religion is as unique as our DNA

jesusI do not, for a moment, believe that religion is categorized into groups or denominations. No two people interpret literature the same way. No two people interpret the Bible the same way. No two people have identical emotional reactions to the latest blockbuster. And no two people have the same emotional pulls from a religious service. No two people can imagine the same crucifixion of Christ just like no two people can wrap their consciousness around nirvana.

Just because we know The Name Of their religion does not mean we know their beliefs

As secular educators, we have a choice. We can dismiss religion into its categories and denominations. Or we can treat religion for what it is. We cannot see the heart until we know someone.

If you are an atheist, you will explain your beliefs to your children. You will explain to them why you oppose the belief in God. It is completely within your power to convey this in specific or general terms. I would offer a plea — be as specific as you can about what it is that you oppose. And for the sake of your child’s education, be as neutral about other issues as you can.

The vast majority of atheists oppose the actions that are the result of blind faith. Most do not oppose the existence of faith itself. In the formative years of your child’s development, these are fine lines.

Teach ‘local,’ American religion well (the first time)

I believe one of the biggest mistakes a secular homeschooler can make is flippantly dismissing religion. Especially the ‘local’ religion. Ultimately, children will have questions. If you want your children to ask you these questions, I think that it is important to have first built a foundation of trust.

I think that a solid understanding of religion can also help our children relate to their peers and colleagues. It is difficult to understand human actions and reasonings if we can’t put ourselves in their shoes. I know so many conservative evangelicals. Luckily, I understand them. I know their “why” and I’m not surprised by their actions.

In conclusion

In conclusion, I want to reiterate that I am not trying to tell you how to raise your child. There is undoubtedly a large dose of implicit parenting and judgment that accompanies this post about teaching religion in secular homeschools. I want to drop one of my favorite lectures here, Let’s teach religion — all religion — in schools – by Dan Dennett. This post wasn’t directly influenced by his talk, but as I read over the final paragraphs I believe it is more than fitting.


In the next few weeks, I am going to start a series on teaching American Christianity to your kids. This is not the rich and full religious education that I have been advocating in this post. What I will be writing about in the next days and weeks is for high school students, potentially middle school. I’ll reference books, but not textbooks or curriculums. This isn’t  a ‘brand’ or anything of that sort. This is my ‘hand-made’ curriculum / lesson plans for teaching the big picture of American Christianity.

Secular Homeschool Blogging – Rebirth of Rebel Homeschool

Hello everyone! Several years ago when this blog was highly active it was easily one of the best secular homeschooling blogs on the internet.

This blog has just recently changed hands.

Older blog posts

penAll of the content you see before this post is the ‘original.’ We love it. It feels like a strong foundation that we can build upon. And its all still so relevant and helpful.

Our Mission, Our Purpose

It would have been an absolute shame to have let this blog fizzle away into the forgotten corners of the internet. So, we’re rebuilding. What’s our goal? Our ‘mission statement?’ To provide for the secular homeschool community and to nurture its growth. We will provide fresh secular content, resources, reviews, poetry, philosophies, and stories.

There is a clear growing trend — more and more families are homeschooling for non-secular reasons. We are a group of such families. This blog will not be a single voice. This blog will be the voice of several homeschoolers. So if you’re an avid blog reader, and you read blogs to invest in the author’s narrative as well as her (or his) content, pay attention to what account the post is coming from. 🙂 Rebel is our community voice.

Maybe this blog will never re-acquire a following. Or, maybe it will. While our goal in service is to provide, we have personal motives as well. Ultimately, blogging is about discipline. Disciplined blogging allows us to look back into the past. Reference resources that we would rather not bookmark. Recall a technique. Journal our progress. Document our work. It is our own little world, a haven of sorts.

Moving Forward

What is our plan moving forward? As we stated a few sentences ago, blogs are an excellent way of documenting what has been done. We’re now going to document what will be done. …we hope.

  • A theme re-design

Right now, we’re using the default WordPress theme. We want to at least spice things up, if not transfer to a new theme

  • Re-categorize

Moving forward, its nice to be organized. There might be some old posts that could me rearranged. And setting up for the future — lets start out organized.

  • Start posting about niche curriculum opportunities

Two of our parents are primarily interested in sharing some alternative ‘curriculum.’

  • Start posting at least 3 times per week

With several homeschool parents, this shouldn’t be too hard. Right?

Secular Homeschool Blogs

If you run a secular homeschool blog, reach out to us. We would love to connect and spread the knowledge. There are, of course, some blogs that some of us already follow. Some of us will be actively participating in the comments.

That’s all for today. It feels good to sort of ‘clean the slate’ and get ready to start.

Want to Raise Strong, Confident Girls? Be One!

It seems that the Kardashian celebrity machine has been designing kids clothes recently. This of course has caused outrage and horror among certain sets of people, especially the crowd who wants to raise “strong, confident girls”. Start with some moaning about the over-sexualization of teen girls, throw in a lot of hand-wringing and pearl-clutching, and you basically have the entire conversation.

k-girl
These clothes are unlikely to cause the fall of civilization

I understand the power of the modern media machine. I sotry of know who the Kardashians are even though I don’t watch any TV that isn’t carefully curated through Hulu and Netflix. I don’t read any celebrity magazines or blogs. Still, it seeps into my awareness.  Even living in my cocoon of media ennui, I had expectations of what “Kardashian” branded children’s clothing might look like.

I’m eternally curious, so of course dear readers, I did a quick internet search– and found clothes that I would have happily put on my infant and toddler daughter without a second thought. Sure, I would have passed on the leopard print, but much of the collection is just the sort of thing I loved. Cotton print, looks comfortable, easy to wash. Lots of matchy-matchy stuff to eliminate any need for thinking. Or matching. What’s not to love? I’d even buy the faux fur cape if I were making a little Victorian girl costume for a “Dickens on the Strand” event. At least it looks like it’s real faux fur instead of Raccoon Dog from China passed of as “faux”. In this case, we can give the Kardashians a pass. They’re not super-mutants whose mere brand will convert your child to the dark side. OTOH, if you don’t want to give them your money, there’s no reason why you should.

The “strong girls” conversation always includes the “it’s all your fault, mom!” contingency, who shrilly insist that Kardashians and other media evils have nothing to do with the problems of modern girls. It’s all the fault of “home life” and not enough “family values”. Of course this is ludicrous. There are strong, strong forces at work in our consumer culture that penetrate, as I said before, even carefully curated bubbles of media ennui. It’s there when we go shopping. Don’t get me started on the time not so long ago when I needed to take my teen bra shopping and it was a multi-day, multi-store death march to find a young teen bra that wasn’t full of push up padding. It’s there on our billboards, our TV, magazine, internet ads, everywhere. And everyone says: “I know this is a problem, but I don’t know what the answer is!” I do, but I expect some people aren’t going to like it.

Be a Strong Girl

You want to raise a strong girl? Be a strong girl. Throw away your scale. Go to the grocery store with no makeup on. Take your daughter camping, just you girls. Go do something fun with her that gets you sweaty and filthy, and don’t say a word about your appearance. Talk about the modern dating scene and ways to navigate boy/girl relationships with dignity. Talk to your daughter about the news (the real news, not celebrity gossip). Turn off the cable television subscription. (I have cable internet with no television, so don’t tell me it can’t be done.) Read about cool advances in the sciences and share the excitement with your daughter. Cancel your women’s magazine subscriptions and replace them with Smithsonian, Discover, Sky and Telescope, Bon Appetit, Weekend Projects, Dwell. Be the girl you want your daughters to grow up to be.

Don’t Panic

Someone commented that once your daughter turns 11 or 12, she won’t care about your opinion or aesthetics. This is not true. Don’t mistake her attempts to find her own opinions and aesthetics as a full rejection of you. Sure, you’re going to argue. Sure, there’s going to be push back. Every teen needs to rebel a little. If you embrace her and her self-expression, even if it’s not what you’d do/wear/say, she’ll still trust you when she’s an older teen. If you didn’t slam the door in her face with some kind of “my way or the highway” b.s., she’ll come back around to wanting to know your opinion. Give her some privacy to figure herself out, but don’t abandon her to be raised by the media, her friends, and school.

Show Up

If your girl suddenly wants to be a goth (or whatever), go help her buy goth clothes. Don’t throw a wad of cash at her, drop her off at the mall, and then spend the next six months complaining about her wardrobe (true story!). I know you’re busy. I know she might say “but I want to go with my friends!” Go anyway. Be happy and supportive and you’ll be able to gently steer her away from the too short mini to the more acceptable alternative. This won’t happen if you don’t show up.

Showing up might also require that you attend concerts and other events that bore you. You might be there as the lone person over 20. Suck it up and go anyway.  You’ll keep your kid (and by extension, her friends) out of trouble, morph into the coolest mom ever, and have excellent leverage next time you want her to go listen to Bach. Plus you’ll learn about what she likes and be able to talk to her about it like a civilized person.

It’s Hard Work Being A Girl

Look, I’m not perfect and I surely need to take some of my own advice sometimes. We all need to go easy on each other, not only mother to daughter, but woman to woman.  I’m not judging you for your secret addiction to Grey’s Anatomy or whatever is popular right now.  If you’re like every other woman I know, you do enough self-judging; you don’t need me for that. It’s hard work being a female in our culture. It often feels like everyone’s eyes are on us, judging everything about us. Of course you’re not going to be the perfect role model for your girl. But you can be a role model for your girl. Pick your battles, do what you can. You owe it to yourself to be the best girl that you can be, never mind your daughter. Keep that in mind, and you’ll both turn out just fine.