Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.

Religion Matters!


Something that’s come to my attention as a homeschooling mom that I didn’t notice as a ‘classroom mom’ is that religion matters. Not to me, but to the homeschooling community in general. It even matters to the people in your community as a whole since once they learn you’re homeschooling, they automatically assume that you’re one of the denim jumper moms (even though my blacker-than-thou’s teeshirt, ripped jeans and coordinating black nail polish do their best to discourage that assumption).

As a parent with kids in school-school, my religion never really entered the picture. I was raised in a faith where it was a big deal at the beginning of every year for my mom to sit down with the teacher and explain why I couldn’t participate in holidays and wasn’t going to be standing for or saying the pledge. Our church even had a special booklet that was designed just for teachers. Since I chose not to pursue that religion with my own children, there wasn’t any need to outline what I believed because there was nothing in my belief system that would ostracize or make my kids stand out so much that it required explanation. In school-school, it just doesn’t matter (unless you’re trying to skimp on the snacks for holiday parties – then you get the evil eye from the Room Mothers… but since I usually was one of the Room Mothers and usually first in line with holiday coordinated store-bought home-made goodies, that wasn’t really an issue for me.) Yeah, I was that mom. Even I hated me some days… I missed out on all that as a kid, so that had a lot to do with my motivation.

But, I digress… back to the subject at hand.

Fast forward to this past January, and my entry into the homeschooling community; though truthfully,  I guess I should say ‘re-entry’. When I was in high school, my mom got fed up with the ‘security’ measures being taken at the local high schools, and decided that we would be homeschooling from then on. She was awesome in her organizational capabilities. I don’t think  that there were very many organized homeschool groups back then, but she created one and planned field trips and all kinds of activities for the group.

Even before I had my first child, I knew that I wanted to homeschool my kids. Once my boys were pre-school aged, I started reaching out to the local, and by then far more organized, homeschooling community… and promptly got my hand slapped. Why? Because I was not the right flavor of Christian. At that time, I was indeed a Bible-toting, aspiring Titus 2 woman intent on honoring God by being a dutiful wife and committed mother, and homeschooling was just another step on that path.

The only problem was that I was not a ‘fundamentalist Christian’. I don’t know if these types exist in other places, but you can’t open a Bible ’round here without knocking into one of them, they’re so thick in the South. From what I can gather, the foundation of fundamentalists Christians seems to consist of making sure that their beliefs are in no way challenged, and a great deal of evangelizing with the goal of saving your heathen soul from the eternal flames of hell. Oh, I’m making light of it, of course, but these are some deeply religious folks and a great many of them are both honest and sincere in their belief that it is their duty to at least attempt to bring you to Jesus lest your blood be on their hands come Judgement Day. In some ways, I admire that kind of … faith? I don’t know what it is, really. I don’t want it for myself, or for my kids, but I am happy for them if it makes them so. But if I say that I’m not interested in hearing their message, I don’t think it’s too much to expect that I no longer be pressured to convert.

Since I was a ‘different’ kind of Christian, I was deemed unfit to join or participate in any of the already-formed groups in this area. Even my own religion frowned on inter-faith association, but as they also lacked a homeschooling support network (though homeschooling was pretty common among members of my religion) I was forced to look outside the fold to find support. I don’t know why it came as such a big surprise to be so completely cast out, but it did.

All I really wanted was a group that was inclusive and respectful of other types of Christian beliefs. I don’t care what you believe; I wasn’t looking for religious flavor in my kids’ education. I just wanted a group of homeschooling moms to talk with and learn from and hang out with when we had time. Most of the groups already formed here required members to sign a statement of faith (and still do).  I wanted a more secularly based group so that the religion thing didn’t come up or create conflict. If there had been a secular group available, I’d have joined it in a second! But there wasn’t so it was either suffer in silence or start a new group. Once I thought about it, starting a group myself sounded more and more like a good idea. I could create a group with a more open-minded atmosphere so that I, and others like me, would be both welcome and comfortable participating without worrying about the religion factor.

And that’s pretty much the kind of group we have. Though we’re open to pretty much anyone, there is definitely a certain ‘type’ who would simply not be comfortable in our group. On one hand that bothers me. On the other, there are 5 (FIVE!!) Christian-based homeschooling support/co-op groups here – no 6 if you count the super-secret group that is by invitation only that I just learned about – so I think there’s plenty of support for that ‘type’. I don’t want to have an issue because my kid pulls out an h-e-double hockey sticks when he is wronged or wears a tee-shirt covered in skulls, or the conversation turns to last week’s True Blood or planning for a field trip to the local Buddhist Temple. We’re not trying to step on anyone’s toes, but we do recommend steel-toed boots if you’re going to hang with us. {wink}

It’s fascinating to me how much religion matters to the vast majority of homeschoolers out there; how dividing beliefs can be in this day and age. I thought we were moving more towards acceptance and respect as a society, not clinging to and even reinforcing the thoughts and ideas that segregate us along chosen lines. It’s just so odd to me that there are actually people out there who feel like having a non-religious person, or a person who is a different religion than they are, being around their kids is so dangerous and damaging to them that they create what is essentially a closed community within which to raise them. A community that they actively guard and protect against any thought or idea that might present options to their kids outside of those that they find acceptable. It’s sad, really. Those kids are every bit as oppressed as any other group of people who has been given only a certain portion of freedom or purposely limited in knowledge and access to information and experience. That is exactly the kind of environment that gives the homeschooling community such a bad reputation.

For me, homeschooling is partially about experiencing life outside the classroom. Classrooms have walls and boundaries that make it so difficult for a child to experience life as long as they have to be cooped up in one, and I certainly don’t want my homeschool to have barriers before my children because of my beliefs. I don’t think that closed-mindedness has any place in education. My religious beliefs have evolved quite a bit over the years and I’ve come to see belief as a fluid thing. It’s ever-changing in response to what life hands me and I’m fine with that. I tend to think that belief is a journey, not a destination; though I am sure that makes me a very scary lady to some. But you know what? As I said on SecularHomeschooling.com,

I’m awesome; my kids are awesome and if your beliefs don’t allow for the sunshine in my world to brighten yours, then I am not the one missing out {wink}
~h

Warmly,

~h

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14 responses

  1. I love this post. I used to live in STL and was overwhelmed by the community (very bible belt) I go to church but am more quiet in my belief and I was completely overwhelmed by the whole thing. I ended up giving up and staying home with my children because I couldn’t cope with it all and didn’t want my children to learn such intolerance of others who believe differently! We don’t live there now and I have a much better secular group here and what a difference:)
    Anna-Marie

    September 9, 2010 at 3:10 am

    • Thanks!
      It’s very sad to me that the main religion that ‘preaches’ love and acceptance seems to have very little of it in practice.
      I’m glad you found a group that fits your needs better!
      ~h

      September 9, 2010 at 1:55 pm

      • Esther

        i loved this article!! we should all respect eachothers belief system

        September 9, 2010 at 7:55 pm

  2. PB&J

    I’m so glad that I get to have some of your sunshine in MY life!!

    September 9, 2010 at 7:55 am

  3. Love the steel-toed boots line. That is too funny!
    Good for you for starting your own group!
    So far, no one has outwardly assumed that we are religious when I tell them we are homeschooling but we haven’t been at this for long.
    We are very lucky to have multiple secular or inclusive groups here. Good to know that I ever move to south east Texas, there is an awesome group there. 🙂

    September 9, 2010 at 8:22 am

    • It’s something to walk up to the park and see a table full of denim-jumper moms all but scramble to cover their kids ears and eyes when they see you coming.

      First time, it’s like, WTF?? Second time, you’re angry… by the third time, you’re dressing with intent, purposefully starting a conversation about Harry Potter with your kids in the car on the way and and just hoping to see them, lol.

      September 9, 2010 at 1:58 pm

  4. Jana C

    Here, Here !! I just love you !! I too want my children to learn to respect people of all faiths, to know about the world around them. To make their own decisions !!

    September 9, 2010 at 8:28 am

    • Thanks 🙂 You’re one of my favorites, too, Jana! ~h

      September 9, 2010 at 1:59 pm

  5. {whine}
    I want to go on the Buddhist temple field trip!
    {end whine}

    People have gotten so used to putting people in categories when they meet you, they don’t know what to do if you don’t fit in one of their pre-made boxes. And I guess they’re used to not having the religious discussions in public school, but it sure was nice to not have to deal with that there. We are lucky to have a large inclusive group here, but even within that group there seem to be cliques, mostly groups of people who are members of the other groups (the ones that make you sign a statement of faith, something I have a problem with and even some of the uber-religious moms refuse to sign). Luckily, even though we’re in the Deep South, our city has a pretty big music and art scene with international flavoring, so most people are more open-minded these days. Or at least the open-minded folks are easier to find. Still, I hate the “Have you joined [the religious group with he statement of faith] yet?” question I get when I tell people we’re new homeschoolers. It’s just assumed that we HAVE to be part of those groups.

    September 9, 2010 at 8:50 am

    • Very true… I have my own boxes that I put people into and I admit it throws me for a second when they don’t fit neatly into one of them, but I try to be aware of that fault and get over myself quickly.

      I’d love to see the homeschool groups in our area work towards getting more resources and activities available to homeschooling families, but I think that’s a pipe dream.
      ~h

      September 9, 2010 at 2:25 pm

  6. Not snarky! I really AM glad that I have your awesomeness in my life!! 🙂

    September 9, 2010 at 6:33 pm

  7. straderspiel

    The exclusive homeschool groups that require a statement of faith have always been an enigma to me. Sure, with Christianity as a whole you can have separate denominations and split the herd up in all sorts of ways because there are so many no matter what camp you fall into, you have others to be in community with.

    Homeschoolers don’t yet make up even 3% of the population. If I can find other homeschoolers, I am thrilled. I don’t care if they are the drink the blood of the animals they just sacrificed type of people…they homeschool which means they will be available during the day when no one else is. I guess for me I don’t feel like what I’m doing is mainstream enough for me to be very picky!

    September 10, 2010 at 8:07 am

  8. “I don’t care if they are the drink the blood of the animals they just sacrificed type of people…they homeschool which means they will be available during the day when no one else is.”

    LMAO… that’s funny! 😀

    Idaknow… there’s always room to be picky in my book.

    I get what you’re saying though, and if you’re talking about secular homeschoolers then I totally agree. But in some places – here, certainly, there are a BUNCH of Christian homeschoolers. We rarely hit the library or park without seeing another one (in their natural habitat)… it’s just that they’re not usually all that interested in hanging out with the lady in black and her Nerf gun toting, heathen children.

    Truth be told, even if it was just me and my kids, I’d probably still have a website in the hopes that one day, another secular homeschooler would turn up.
    Thanks for commenting!! 🙂
    ~h

    September 11, 2010 at 1:03 am

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