I live in rural Georgia, USA, where the vast majority of homeschooling families do so for religious reasons — or, at the very least, use Christian curriculum without missing a beat. I grew up within a Baptist church, volunteered at vacation bible school and have a scrapbook filled with memorabilia from Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I have respect for Jesus’ followers because I spent a long time as one. Then I grew up.
As I grew, I learned about Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Gnosticism, Paganism and magic. I saw genuine common threads between all the stories, and I lamented the degree to which Christianity was used as a means of wielding political power and control — from stripping and appropriating native traditions; to leading the Crusades, Spanish Inquisition and witch trials; to normalizing and perpetuating certain forms of sexual and domestic abuse; to serving as a tax-exempt funding source for institutionalized racism and sexism.
While I have genuinely seen Christianity lift close friends from depression as though it were a balm to their souls, I had the opposite experience — instead lifting myself from depression in part by rebuking the need to fit a Christian model of “goodness.” Giving myself permission to find genuine joy in humanity has cultivated a deep sense of agnostic wonder, filling me with reverence and appreciation for all life. At times, I do experience a feeling of connection to a greater whole, which many would call God or Goddess. However, I view these moments as personal experiences of subjective divinity, while also recognizing the objective reality of atheism.
As a human rights advocate, it is essential to assert the difference between subjective, personal knowing and objective reality. My opinion = Subjective knowing can, and often should, shape our individual choices, but objective reality should shape our policy — provided, of course, there are distinct boundaries in place regulating the degree to which public policies can influence our private lives. Specifically, I am a strong supporter of the firm separation of church and state, and under no circumstances do I think that Biblical “knowledge” can inform any legitimate study of science or history.
Living in the South though, sometimes I’ve made compromises. My children started out at a Christ-centered learning center. I loved the people there and feel they genuinely embody the best elements of their religion. Yet, I think it may be for the best that their once extensive academic programming is now limited to the preschool years. Today, my children learn through a combination of digital programming and hands-on activities which I curate and oversee entirely myself. We’ve been successful in our secular approach, so I’m beginning a Medium publication to share our accomplishments and discoveries, as well as to motivate me to remain on track.
Personally, I think that secular thinking goes hand-in-hand with homeschooling. Secular thinking encourages us to know ourselves, to know facts and to use our experience and knowledge to make new discoveries. Similarly, homeschooling encourages us to know our children as learners, to know ourselves as teachers and to find new ways of understanding the world together.
My desire to explore the world in this way with my children in their youth is one of the reasons why we homeschool. We also homeschool because my children are autistic, dyslexic and just fundamentally different in how they process all sensory input. Our district’s most thoughtful approaches to accommodation trigger my children, and better-fitting learning centers and private schools are out of budget for now.
As a former academic over-achiever at a private day and boarding school, I have been forced to open my mind and shift my approach to learning because of my children’s differences. As a former classroom teacher, I can see, thanks to my children, all the ways I fell short of understanding many of my former students’ struggles. With each challenge homeschooling my special needs children brings, this heathen mother is blessed. Thank you all for bearing witness to our journey of being secular and sensational.