Homeschool World/Practical Homeschooling has an image with a quote, ‘Secular culture is trying to remake homeschooling in its own image. Time to get back to Christian homeschooling!’ I have to admit that it caught me unawares; I recognize that some factions of the Christian sphere like to project the notion that they’re constantly under attack and being persecuted by silly little things like ‘equality’ and ‘civil liberty’, but I hadn’t realized that secular homeschoolers were trying to oust Christian homeschoolers from the scene entirely. I was under the (apparently, grossly mistaken) impression that secular homeschoolers were attempting, with best foot forward, to eek out a small place for themselves within the predominantly faith-based homeschooling world – and not even a separate, ‘atheists only’ (or whatever equally ridiculous segregated dynamic) space, but just to be allowed on the homeschool scene at all.
I’ll admit that much of my commentary on this topic is sarcastic, partially because it baffles me that anyone actually feels this way. I fail to see how this is even a legitimate complaint, but I digress. If you’re offended by my sarcasm, please feel free to refer to the author’s notes in my sidebar for available options for remedying that. The article goes on to state:
In some of the new “secular” homeschooling titles that are beginning to show up, the immense influence of Christianity on the modern homeschool movement is largely ignored. It would be fine if these books were honest enough to challenge the Christian influence in homeschooling, or even attempt to discredit it, but they simply ignore it. No one should be surprised by this – it’s certainly a publisher’s or author’s prerogative to include or
exclude whatever they want. However, we should be concerned.
I’m confused about what sort of challenge these people want. Most homeschool material is curriculum and doesn’t cover the history of education and how homeschooling really got its groove on. If you want to look into the history of home education, specifically, then yes, I’d probably agree that Christian homeschoolers had a lot to do with either challenging state laws that made homeschooling illegal or helping to clarify where the law was vague or didn’t address it at all. I just don’t understand what obligation anyone could possibly have to the original (Christian?) political activists from years ago, or what challenge they’re after. No one, to my knowledge, is denying that Christian activists paved the way for homeschooling to become more mainstream. But I don’t go around thanking the descendants of the Revolutionary War for establishing American’s independence (although I could – <looks in mirror> Thank you, Heather, for your ancestor’s service. Why, you’re most welcome, Heather! Cheers!!) And just who is it sitting around wanting acknowledgement – those who fought those battles likely have grand or great-grandchildren by now – haven’t they moved on to bigger and better things?? I just don’t get it.
And what does that even mean, ‘remake homeschooling in its own image’. Do they mean ‘secular’? Because that doesn’t mean ‘anti-Christian’. Literally, the definition of secular is: denoting attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis. You know, like school/education… which can have a spiritual or religious component, but is not, in and of itself, a religious activity. I would love for one of these alarmist articles to use the word ‘secular’ correctly just once! Lots of things are secular – baths…baths are secular. So is mowing the lawn and feeding the cat. Secular doesn’t mean ‘bad’, nor does it mean that you are in any way prohibited from bathing in Holy Water, or asking the Lord’s blessings upon your lawnmower or praying over your cat’s Tuna Delight. It just means that they’re mundane things; not inherently spiritual. And that’s perfectly fine.
But to say that they are an ignored population or imply that they are in any way under attack, is baffling. In my city and surrounding area, for example, at one point there were thirteen homeschooling groups/co-ops. Of those only ONE was secular/inclusive. I also am part of a Texas-wide secular homeschooling group, and there are places where there is an active homeschooling community but only one family that isn’t faith-based for a hundred miles or more. I hardly think that by any stretch of the imagination, the Christian population of homeschoolers is in any way under-served. Not to mention that it’s pretty presumptuous to assume that all homeschoolers are Christian (or white, or mom is the primary teacher, or that the students are her own children – assumptions are bad, m’kay?). Homeschooling has attracted so many more types of people and families since the early days.
The article continues:
Potential or new homeschoolers who pick up the latest secular tome claiming to be the greatest ever guide to homeschooling will receive a distorted picture of the movement that overlooks the enormous impact and influence of Christian culture on homeschooling. Many new and veteran homeschoolers will pick up these books because they have “homeschooling” in the title, and may undiscerningly recommend them to others, tacitly endorsing the secularized viewpoint of these publications. Large bookstore chains will carry these books, often to the exclusion of books published by Christian publishers and authors, throwing the weight of their reputation behind this new and more “PC” brand of homeschooling. This could, potentially, influence public opinion, and even legislation.
The reality, of course, is that this is business as usual in our culture. But the net effect of this in a decade could be the co-opting of the national homeschool movement by secularists. Christian homeschooling would not go away, but in the new institutionalized, culturally acceptable form, it would likely be marginalized.
Again, unless you’re specifically looking into the history of homeschooling, most ‘homeschooling 101’ manuals don’t cover the start of the homeschooling movement. Even if they did, homeschooling has changed so much since the ’70s and ’80s – even the ’90s for that matter. It’s hard enough keeping up with the legal requirements year to year – who has time, and it it even necessary to read up on how homeschooling became a thing? If you’re interested in it – sure; but I’d be willing to bet most people don’t care. Even when I started homeschooling my own kids, researcher that I am, I don’t recall ever feeling like I needed to delve into the history of homeschooling; all I really needed to know about homeschooling was: is it legal? what do I have to do? how do we get started? Short of knowing that the case that made it legal in Texas was TEA v. Leeper 1991, I have literally not looked any deeper into the history of homeschooling than that.
Do Christian homeschoolers get a nod of thanks for the work they did to legalize homeschooling? Sure; maybe. But Christian homeschoolers, despite making up the majority of the homeschooling population overall, aren’t the only ones out there. Their presence is obvious; their impact and influence over the materials isn’t likely to go away anytime soon. Take a trip to any homeschool store or convention, and the stacks are overflowing with Christian-based materials – I can’t even say ‘faith-based’ because the overwhelming majority of the material out there is Christian-influenced. So color me very confused when I ask what in the name of Merlin these people are even talking about. Most of us who prefer a secular curriculum have to look long and hard to find resources; and if you’re looking for resources within a particular style of homeschooling (like Charlotte Mason), essentially your only option is to ‘secularize’ a Christian resource.
Of course companies have started capitalizing on homeschool culture, and thank goodness they did or we’d all be trying to adapt other resources still (which sucks). My siblings and I were homeschooled in the early/mid ’90s, and my cousins were homeschooled throughout (so from roughly 1982-1998-ish). I remember my aunt sharing resources with my mom, but most were classroom-designed materials that were adapted for homeschool use. Nowadays, there are myriad resources that start out for homeschool use. Most are Christian-based, but more and more come out every year that are secular, which is awesome! That doesn’t mean that Christian resources will go away. I dare say that most secular homeschoolers look at some of the models of Christian homeschooling and shudder – their goal being to move in as far opposite a direction from that model as possible. Even some mainstream curriculum options are often shunned by some Christian homeschoolers because it’s based on a 6,000 year old Earth model rather than based in fact. While I disagree with that, personally, I recognize that it is your right to use those materials if you choose to, and I’m not out campaigning for laws to restrict their use. I think it’s a fair application of ‘live and let live’.
Obvious disclaimer is obvious… there are a great many – the majority, even – Christian homeschoolers out there who want nothing to do with this kind of crazy-pants fanaticism. I recognize that the worldview perpetuated by the image that set this post off is a small, but unfortunately vocal, population of faith-based homeschoolers, and that this stereotype is just as damaging to the overall perception of Christianity as terrorists are to Islam and Muslim people and culture. I think most people get that. It certainly isn’t the responsibility of the normal/average Christian to dispel these kinds of perceptions, and I don’t expect the average/normal Christian homeschooler to do that. I can only ever speak from my own experience, and over the last decade, I feel like homeschoolers that aren’t faith-based have finally started to make themselves known. Homeschooling is SO MUCH MORE ACCESSIBLE now, and that is amazing. There are all kinds of people homeschooling – working moms, stay at home dads, single parents, parents who work/school cooperatively with other families, virtual-schoolers, unschoolers, straight parents, queer parents, non-traditional families, faith-based homeschoolers, Christians who use secular resources, and literally every other niche dynamic I can think of… it’s incredible and wonderful and diverse and I am happy to be part of it… and it bothers me that there are still people who want to take that away because it’s not exactly ‘their’ perception of Right™.
Y’all go out and play nice! Follow Jesus’ example of ‘How to be a Compassionate Adult in 1 Easy Step’ (spoiler: Step 1: Don’t be a dick.).
Just food for thought.
This year, our homeschool group is hosting a new thing – social events designed for teenagers. Today is our first experience with such a beast, and I am happy to report that it was a success! I’m glad it went well, and excited see how this new thing plays out over the year to come.
One thing that seems to be a theme among homeschool groups is phasing out as the kids get older. The population of kids still homeschooling through middle school dwindles, and dwindles even more as they get into high school. I definitely believe in and advocate that you should do what works best for your family in any given school year, but when your family is homeschooling long-term, social time does become harder to arrange as the kids get older. Most homeschool groups seem to be saturated with little kids* – pre-schoolers through upper elementary school, which is great, but can leave older kids feeling a little out of place.
I have noticed that some groups try to arrange social events for teens, which is fantastic. My kids have thus far been too young to participate (or too immature, maybe), so I haven’t been involved in them before, but now that they’re older, I have found that even the groups that do organize with older kids in mind aren’t doing things that my geeky kids are interested in.
This year (and last), we’ve had more older kids joining our group, so we decided to get them involved and see what they’d like to do. Today’s event was a meet up for froyo (frozen yogurt, if you’re not in the know). Kids had fun just sitting at their own table, chatting and catching up.
After talking with some of the other moms, it seems that they’re all in an ‘anti-social’ phase – where getting dressed and out of the house sounds like more effort than it’s worth just to hang out with a few friends. It’s reassuring to know that it’s not just my kids; it’s an age thing (apparently), and not restricted to boys – girls go through it, too.
In any case, we did successfully socialize the kids today, and have plans for the next few months.
I was going to go into a whole post on homeschooling and socialization, but I just don’t have it in me right now. Our group calendar (and our personal one) is completely full of lessons, activities, classes, volunteering, community service, work, and play from now through the end of the year. Maybe when my kids are grown, I’ll have more time to address the social misconceptions of homeschooling, but for now, I’m ready for some mindless internet fun.
Have a great weekend!
Holy backpacks, Batman! It’s NBTS!!
We tend to school throughout the summer, with various breaks as needed, rather than following a strict schedule. We used to – and have tried different schedules over the years. It all works out to about the same amount of class-time, so now I pretty much just plan on school and we break if we need to. We actually started this ‘grade’ a few weeks ago. We’re in week 5 now.
If you’re new to homeschooling, check out the NBTS Blog Hop, sponsored by iHomeschooling Network. It’s a link-up by lots of different homeschooling bloggers. It’s not strictly secular, but there’s something for everyone, and no matter what your personal views, I think it’s always cool to see how others ‘do’ homeschool.
As usual, I’m late on this… somehow, it started way back in July and I am just now catching up. But, as my mama always said, better to arrive late than unprepared! (Well, she said ‘ugly’, but that doesn’t really apply here.) They’ve changed it up a bit from previous years. The ‘used curriculum week’ is new, and useful! I love used curriculum; it’s a great way to homeschool on the thrifty side, as well as try new things without dropping a ton of money into something you may or may not like or use. If you do want to sell, or buy inexpensive/used materials, there are homeschool-specific buy-sell-trade groups on Facebook, like ‘Homeschool Buy Sell Trade‘. There are also state or local area-specific groups that you can join.
Curriculum week is one of my favorites. We don’t switch things up as much as we used to; we’ve been at this long enough to find our niche and to know what works and what doesn’t. My boys are in 7th and 8th grade this year. Here’s a quick look at what we’re using this year.
- Math – Pre_Algebra review with Kuta Software online as a spine with Khan Academy videos to explain concepts I can’t. Core Skills Math: Grade 8 and Algebra Warm-Ups (7+)
- Science – Middle School Science Education – Nebel
- History & Geography; Current Events – Story of the World 4 (plus Activity Book and lapbook), Timeline, various Artist, Composer, World Religion and other unit studies as needed/desired; CNN Student News (note-taking & discussion; research as needed; hasn’t started for this school year yet); Unit Studies centered on World Events/Holidays, etc. as needed or desired
- Grammar, Writing, Penmanship & Spelling – Diagramming Sentences (review), Project-Based Writing 6-8, Spectrum Word Study & Phonics 6, weekly spelling list of 10 words & exercises (test on Fridays); weekly essay writing, daily handwriting/dictation drills
- Reading & Literature – Novel unit studies; daily reading assignment & note-taking
- Logic/Research – games, brain teasers, research project, computer coding, foreign language, areas of individual study/interest
- Arts, PE & Health – art projects (usually monthly based on concept), encourage individual study; daily walks; playing with our dog, Max; daily workout routine (20 min cardio daily, plus target strength training)
- Field trips, Activism & Community Service – weekly educationally aligned field trips with our homeschool group; once-a-month community service project or activity. Activism opportunities as available.
We don’t do every subject every day, and sometimes, the task for a subject is less time-consuming than others. Math, for example, has been a lot of fairly easy review over the past few weeks. I don’t mind re-covering concepts, because we’ll be needing them as we move into more complicated maths. I tend to lump History together with Geography and Current Events – we only cover one chapter per week in SOTW4, so there’s plenty of time in the week to cover a geography lesson or work on a unit study. We also tend to do either science or history on a given day. News, we cover daily, usually at breakfast for discussion.
I am forever asked about school year planning and about my planner. I will do a separate post about planning the year out later, but with my planner, I do a couple of different things. The bulk of my planner is something that I designed. I really wasn’t happy with commercial lesson planners, or even most of the available homeschool planners, so I worked on it for a while to figure out what worked best for me. I have all of the previous, and current blank versions of my various planners available for free download (including a student planner) on the printables page. Something I’ve added to my planner is a downloadable planner page from Passion Planner. With my work picking up, this was exactly the thing I needed to help me keep up with multiple areas of my life. I printed and taped or stapled the PP pages into the middle of the current week for now as a trial to see if it works for me. I do like it, so when I print it again, I will add it into the binding.
That gives me essentially a 4-page week; on the first page is a weekly overview, school curriculum notes, child-specific notes, meal planning and short ‘to-do’ list. Page 2 is Monday – Wednesday, with ‘this week’s focus’ and a gratitude journal section, plus personal and work priorities. Page 3 is Thurs – Sunday, with a doddle/journal section at the bottom, and the final page is for this week’s field trip information and the kids’ actual assigned work for this week. The tabs are downloads from Scattered Squirrel; binder clips and washi tape are from either office or craft supplies stores. I print my planner every year, in December, and have it spiral bound at a local print shop. I usually include other things in the binding as well – interview sheets for the kids to keep up with their interests by year; homeschool laws in my state, pages for blog planning, craft planning and other note-taking. I also have a section for things that I feel like help me be a better parent and teacher – personality profiles, mindfulness tools, communication tips, and things like that. Here’s what this week looks like so far:
Our school room is the same as ever. We are fortunate to have a dedicated room to school; it’s our ‘office’ of sorts. All of the computers are in the school room, along with my desk (which houses both school, work and art). My Loverly Husband is all about the PC Master Race, so he spends a lot of time in here as well. It’s pretty much the ‘hub’ of our home. It’s not super pretty, and is forever in a state of being ‘decluttered’ (I tend to work best in a state of controlled chaos), but it’s worked for years. We’ve gone through phases of being more and less enamored with actually working in here (largely dictated by temperatures), but we always come back to it, it seems. We have two big slate chalkboards that we use daily, and flip pads/anchor charts in here and in the kitchen… school isn’t confined to one room when we’re working. I just try to keep most of it in here so our house isn’t totally over-run, but there’s definitely a ‘homeschool chic’ vibe to the decor.
The ‘Eyes of the Student’ week used to be ‘Student Picture Week’ or something like that. I don’t mind sharing our pictures; we took them today for this very post! I make student ID cards for my kids every year, so they needed updated pictures for this year anyway. Here’s how they look – the info and colors just get updated every year. I also get them laminated. The kids carry them in their wallets. I’ve heard horror stories about harassment of homeschoolers if they’re out without a parent nearby, but we’ve never experienced anything like that. All the same, my kids know their rights, and we’ve spoken at length about ‘what to do if’.
I’ve added an editable word.docx that you can download and use to create cards of your own. It’s fully editable, so you can add features you want and delete those you don’t. There’s a student ID, an educator ID, and the medical release for the back sides of the student card. homeschool ID cards BLANK
And here’s this year’s school picture:
The last 2 prompts are ‘day in the life’ posts. I’ve done a DITL from my perspective before, but it’s been a while so I’ll work on doing it again. I haven’t ever done a school day POV from the kids though – sounds fun. We’ll try that soon.
How’s your school year starting out?
If you’re new to homeschooling, you may not realize just how diverse the concept of ‘homeschooling’ can be. This graphic has been popping up on homeschooling boards fairly often lately, and I wanted to share it and talk a bit about it, because I think it is a relatively decent simple breakdown of what homeschooling might look like for individual families.
No two homeschooling families will look exactly alike, even if they’re using the same materials. That whole concept is kind of weird, because schools do look very similar, no matter where you’re at geographically, or what age your kids are, or what materials they’re using. In fact, even with completely different materials, ‘school’ in a brick-and-mortar school often looks practically identical to another B&M school. This generalization excludes ‘alternative’ schools like Montessori, Waldorf and others, which are based in different educational philosophies (in fact, many homeschooling families base their methods on similar concepts), but overall, ‘public’ schools look very, very similar.
I’ve been wanting to talk about the difference between homeschooling and ‘school at home’, which is the Red section on the chart, and encompasses things like ‘virtual academies’ that are hosted by states or local ISDs. I may rustle some feathers for saying this, but if you’re Red, then you’re not really ‘homeschooling’. Hear me out – what I mean by that is that you’re missing out on the entire point of being outside the B&M structure of/and traditional education model. Yes, you might be at home, but you’re still dealing with much of the same stress and hassle of B&M schooling, and getting none of the freedom and enjoyment of ‘real’ homeschooling. Not to mention that in some ways, you’re still buying into the ideas that traditional education have drilled into our culture (like testing and grades and grade-levels, rather than focusing on mastery before progressing).
Having said that, Red isn’t all bad. Red has its place in the homeschooling spectrum, and isn’t without advantages. Red can be a necessary stepping stone towards ideas that more fully encompass what homeschooling can really be like. Red is safe, and provides a lot of structure and reassurance for newbie homeschoolers who are hesitant to take the leap into full-on homeschooling. Red is awesome for kids who need to be outside of the classroom but have parents who genuinely don’t want to homeschool, and for kids who just need a lot of structure. Red is a good option for families who live in areas where there is a lack of support for homeschooling in general. Red is also great for families who encounter a lot of opposition from extended family or friends, or for those who know their own strengths and weaknesses, and despite a genuine desire to be otherwise, know that without such a strict outside structure they would end up ‘not schooling’. And then there are some families who choose Red because that’s what they’re comfortable with, and that’s cool, too.
Orange is pretty similar to Red; I don’t see a lot of difference between the two, really. Maybe the difference is more a mental shift than a visible one. That’s actually a pretty big deal. That’s the first step towards stepping outside the box. Even if it doesn’t show in your day-to-day schooling interactions with your kids, that switch in thinking is key if you want to move into a different color. It can be as simple as switching to a 4 day school week, or starting at 10AM instead of 8. Small steps, but important ones!
Yellow is pretty much the middle. Yellow is still parent-led, which is great for young children who are coming out of B&M schools who are used to a lot of direction, or for children who started out in Indigo or Purple and Mom feels like it’s time to add some structure. Yellow is great for socially active homeschool group participation, and for control-freak parents (like me). We started out in Yellow, and it was a really good place for us when we were there. Yellow requires a bit more parental prep, because you’re not necessarily using a boxed curriculum – you may be researching different resources to use for different subjects, and it takes time to plan. But overall, Yellow is a nice ‘middle of the road’ option.
Green and blue kind of go together in my mind, probably because that’s where we are now. We do a lot of field trips, some project-based learning, a lot of note/lap-booking, and still use some structured curriculum. But we also have more child-led learning (interest-based) than we used to because since my kids are older now, we’re tailoring to career paths and personal interests. We have a lot of flexibility with scheduling, and I trust my kids to do what they need to. For us, this was a system of more parental control, lessened as their responsibility grows. It might look much different for another family.
Indigo and Purple also merge together for me, but that’s very likely because I don’t have a lot of experience with them and have a hard time differentiating between the two. I’ve seen Indigo and Purple very well done, and I’ve seen it as an excuse for no schooling at all. I’m sure that colors my perception of child-led learning (or delight-led) and unschooling (which is what those colors represent) in practice, but I know that it can be a very good option for some kids/families. I’m Unschooled. Yes, I can Write is a blog that I’ve been following for years, and she’s a great example (and advocate) of unschooling as a successful model of education. I also have a couple of friends who successfully employed unschooling, and have seen it work (for both young children and teens/young adults).
I absolutely don’t want to give the impression that the chart is a ladder of sorts that people work their way from Red to Violet – it’s not about that at all. But stepping outside of the Red zone, even into Orange or Yellow, is so liberating! I’m sure people who are in the indigo/violet area would say the same thing to someone like me; it’s all about perspective!
Like I said, we started out in yellow, and have moved into the green/blue area. I am deeply attracted to indigo & violet, but feel equally like I know that they just won’t work for us and am afraid/lack faith or trust in the process. I generally need more structure than that, and I feel like my kids need more direction than those areas provide. I fully reserve the right to change my mind about that, but that’s how I feel right now. The truth is, green/blue is comfortable to me. I don’t feel the need to change it, because it works for us. We still get a ‘backbone’ for things to hinge on, but we also have a lot of freedom. And with my unpredictable work schedule, green/blue lets me work without feeling like I am sacrificing school in the process.
Ultimately, it’s up to each family to figure out where they fall in the spectrum (or, for that matter, if they want to let something like ‘the spectrum’ define them). Many families start out in one color and move to another, either gradually or by circumstance or by deliberate choice. Some families move down the spectrum, while others move up it. Homeschooling is such an individual thing – some families use one method with one kid and another method with their other child(ren).
However you choose to homeschool, make the most of it! Spend time with your kids, stop and see the sights in your town that you have never had time for… make the most out of the time you have with them. It goes by *so* fast! Enjoy it.