A Project to Help Homeschooling Humanists

Guess what?

(Are you sitting for this?)

Not all parents who homeschool their children are Christian.

(I’ll give you a minute to digest that.)

It’s true! There are a lot of atheist parents who homeschool their children (for any number of reasons) but there’s a major problem with that: A lot of the material made for homeschooled kids is written from a Young Earth Creationist, the-Bible-must-be-true perspective, such as books from A Beka or BJU Press.

KellyAnne Kitchin and Jenn Gauthier have both dealt with that situation in their own lives and they want to make things easier for other parents like them. It’s true that secular textbook writers are out there, but their books can be expensive and, to quote KellyAnne, “used copies often command a much higher price” than used Christian textbooks.

So how do you fix the problem?

Their solution is to create an atheist lending library for other homeschooling secular parents:

Committed to raising free-thinking citizens of the world and helping other parents do the same, KellyAnne and Jennifer are looking to open a nation-wide lending library full of materials to lend out to homeschooling families for the school year.

Our project will benefit many families who don’t have access to secular school materials, or those families who cannot afford them.

Many new resources have become available in recent years but the cost for these new resources are high since most authors are self-publishing. Our lending library will make those resources more available.

Their goal is ambitious but it’s one of those projects that, once it gets rolling, it could have a huge impact.

Please consider donating to their campaign. Even if you don’t have kids, or even if you send your kids to a public school, this is a project worth supporting.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mandy.buchanan.79 KellyAnne Kitchin

    It IS true! :) I know that the big story this week on Facebook was the picture of the Creationist science test. I can’t say for sure which curriculum that is, but I know that I’ve seen a lot of homeschool science books with those same sort of “facts”. We’d like to make sure that free-thinking homeschooling families don’t have to use those types of curricula because a secular resource is hard to find or afford. We really appreciate all the help!

  • Artor

    Yes, my kid was homeschooled from 3rd to 8th grade. He’s at the public high school now and got straight A’s last term. But while homeschooling, we used the A Beka math book. It wasn’t too bad, but all of the story problems were heavily Xian, and each section has Bible quotes at the beginning. Overall, he came out knowing his math better than I do, and thinking Xians are weird.

  • Kalah

    This lending library would be fabulous for so many reasons. Often times, as an atheist homeschooler, I buy curriculum thinking it’s secular only to be fooled halfway through the book. This library would be a collective knowledge of decent curriculum that doesn’t involve religion, particularly science and history.
    Thank you for spreading the word for a worthy cause!

  • jess

    Yes! We do exist! Cool project. :)

  • http://www.odonnellweb.com/blog/ Chris O’Donnell

    Meh. Between the library and the Internet there is no excuse for any homeschooler, humanist or not, to be hard up for material. The idea that our kids need “curriculum” is outdated anyway. Books not specifically written for the education market are usually much better anyway.

  • allein

    Do states require some kind of “official” curriculum for homeschoolers? (Though if they do they should certainly require one that actually, y’know, teaches real science ‘n stuff. I guess the rules vary by state, too.) I can see how having a comprehensive curriculum could be helpful for organizing lessons and making sure all the bases are covered, but I would agree that there are a lot of books out there that would likely be better and I would hope people would at least supplement the curriculum accordingly.

    I saw an episode of Wife Swap a few weeks ago, where the one family was “unschooling” their kids (they were not religious). I don’t know what exactly they told the state about their homeschooling, but they weren’t actually teaching the kids anything. The 11 year old was “just teaching herself to read by texting,” according to the dad. 1.) An 11 year old should not be “just” learning to read, and 2.) the girl could barely read the words on the dishwasher buttons, let alone an actual book. The parents obviously love their kids, but they’re doing them a huge disservice but not making sure they have even the most basic education.

  • http://www.odonnellweb.com/blog/ Chris O’Donnell

    You do realize that reality TV is not real, right? Wife Swap tried to recuit my family. We passed. Our dignity is worth more than the $20K they were offering :) Anyway, we are fairly normal. I doubt we would have survived the interview process.

    State regulations related to homeschooling vary greatly, from zero oversight in Texas to fairly close regulation in PA. But I don’t know of any state that would mandate science standards. At best, some states mandate annual standardized testing, but that is usually just reading and math. If the private schools can teach kids that the earth is 6000 years old I don’t see how HSers can be denied the same opportunity to screw up their kids.

  • jess

    Not every homeschooler has infinite time and resources to hunt through and pick out the best stuff. Having a lending library offers something that is arguably even cooler and more important than the library itself – the list of materials. This is an awesome project and will be helpful to many.

  • jess

    States do not require specific curriculum. Homeschooling regulations vary by state but as far as I know, in every case of actual homeschooling (not public school at home) homeschoolers choose their own materials.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1070923734 Sarah Morehead

    Awesome idea! I’ve homeschooled for 17 years with no plans to stop anytime soon, and it’s definitely tough to find secular curriculum. We now just do our own, and Libraries and internet are phenomenal resources, but this would be a huge help as well. I run a local secular homeschool group, and I’m excited to share this with my families!!!

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    my advice, as a former admissions officer: this should be relatively easy to do on the internets these days. go to top flight prep schools, the non-religious kind mostly found on the coasts or urban areas where wealthy people live. look at their curriculum and book list. these days, an increasing number of instructors put book and reading lists on the internet, so cross referencing that with some community college lists would also likely be helpful.

    don’t be fooled by the label that says “for homeschoolers!” there’s so much bunk and so many con artists in that field, and as you say, a lot of pricing difficulty. if you’re going to put together a sound curriculum, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. who do you think gets into the Ivies and top 20 schools? rich kids who go to $25K/yr private high schools. hunt down those reading lists and you’ll be in good shape to start your interloan library.

  • Sillycaitlin

    Another formerly-secularly-homeschooled-kid here, and now a successful, normalish adult. I went to public school for most of elementary and all of high school, but all my friends are jealous that I got to miss most of the traumas of middle school. I was lucky to live in an area where there were lots of other non-religious homeschoolers, and we even had a couple scientist parents who would teach classes at their homes. I got to perform autopsies on iguanas, kick butt in the national geography bee, write/direct plays, and read nonstop. Basically the best way to spend your early adolescence I can imagine!

  • sethwilliamson

    That’s the tactic I took. I looked at the curriculum the expensive private schools were teaching for inspiration. It is even easier to integrate college level material since I found that the curriculum and reading lists were more readily available.

    I’m embarrased to admit, but it didn’t click for me for several years that other people may choose to homeschool because of religious objections to the public curriculum. Homeschooling appealed to me because I was convinced that the quality of education at the public and even private schools wasn’t acceptable, not just in imparting knowledge but more importantly in developing thinking skills.

    My moment of clarity on the state of our education system came about 15 years ago or so. I heard a news report that discussed that standardized math tests for the area were so abismal that the State stepped in to address it. What did they do? They made the test easier because they were concerned about the results affecting the childrens’ self esteem. I was floored. There’s a lovely precedent.

  • Aimster

    YES! YES! YES!! Although nowadays I’m pretty savvy about navigating toward good, secular resources and away from the religious, when I first started homeschooling 5 years ago, it was so hard to find things that suited my needs. (Living in the Bible Belt didn’t help.) I’m so happy to hear about this possibility…if not for myself, then for those who will be like I was when I first started. Frustrated and intimidated by the seeming lack of non-religious material and the lack of mentorship from other secular homeschoolers. I’ll definitely throw some support their way. Even in this age of “everything’s available online,” sometimes it’s nice to know there’s someone out there “just like you.”

  • Mankoi

    Thank you so much for posting this. I was homeschooled until college, and I can attest that it can be difficult to find good material. Some sellers even assure you that their curriculum is secular, while maintaining a subtle, or less subtle religious twist. And the more light that can go to the secular homeschooling community, the better. The wingnuts give us all a bad name.

  • Mankoi

    I knew, and actually still do know, a few unschoolers myself. While I’m not sure I agree entirely with the philosophy, and while there is a huge variance in styles and degrees of unschooling, the ones I know turned out all right. Generally they don’t learn things in the same order, or at the same time, that other people do, but they tend to pick up as much, if not more, by the end. For example, my reading and spelling skills improved greatly when I was younger, not through school activities, but through playing Interactive Fiction games.

    The basic idea is that children are actually curious, and do want to know things. Even when they don’t, they’ll soon enough run up against a situation where in order to do something they want to do, they need to learn some basic skills. Some parents are more hands on about it than others, but it works better than one would think. I knew at least one kid who could read and write at a very early age, but couldn’t recite the alphabet. Until he found need of a dictionary anyway.

    As other people have said, it is “reality” TV, so the realism is questionable. And it is fully possible to do a bad job of unschooling as well, and this might be one of those cases. But I do feel it’s important to point out that unschooling can be very effective, particularly in science education. I know plenty of people who say classroom science education killed their interest in the subject, but I’ve never heard that from a unschooler.

  • Jonni

    Atheist homeschooler from Australia here! Religion isn’t generally on the radar of most Australians, so I guess it’s pretty different here. As a general rule, I just don’t order anything from America, and preferably not specifically for homeschoolers. Our teaching co-op is all secular families, so I never worry about the kids being taught something dodgy.

    Anyway, that’s not particularly useful – I’m just saying hello, and reminding you that there are plenty of recourses out there – you may just have to look to the rest of the world!

  • Anna

    While I think this is a great idea, I’m a little puzzled by the fact that so many people have a hard time finding secular curriculum. What about just using the same textbooks that your school district uses? Or the local secular private schools?

    Just off the top of my head, I can think of Macmillan/McGraw-Hill, Pearson/Prentice Hall, Scott Foresman, Houghton Mifflin, McDougal Littell, and there are tons of used copies for sale online.

  • jess

    Part of the motivation for homeschooling (for many) is getting away from the boring pablum of traditional textbooks.

  • Anna

    Okay, but this program seems to involve borrowing textbooks. So why don’t these parents just buy used copies of secular textbooks?

    If they don’t want to use textbooks at all, it seems like that would make it even easier. Wouldn’t they just go to a regular bookstore and purchase science books there?

  • Anna

    As an aside, not all kids find textbooks boring. I loved my elementary school readers so much that I tracked them down years later and bought copies of my own. They had the most wonderful stories and illustrations. And I remember sneaking my fifth grade social studies textbook home after the teacher told us to destroy our copies at the end of the year. I couldn’t abide the thought of ripping up my beloved history book!

  • Karen Loethen

    I am an atheist homeschooler and I THANK YOU for actually headlining homeschool in a positive way! Woo Hoo!

    Furthermore, in the past I owned a small business that sold homeschool curriculum and I was forever frustrated with the absence of good secular materials.
    Instead of me writing my own series, I chose to invest in a secular publisher: Pandia Press. But also look for materials from The Critical Thinking Company.

    Thanks again, Hemant!

  • Karen Loethen

    D? Great to see you posting here!

  • jess

    It says “materials” not “textbooks”. There are a lot of homeschooling materials that seem secularish but aren’t. There are a lot of bad science books in bookstores. A compiled list of trusted resources is a valuable tool for anyone trying to educate children.

  • Anna

    Not arguing against that. I think it’s a good project. If people aren’t using textbooks, perhaps it’s harder for them to find secular materials than I thought.