In the past home education was the province of the conservative Christian groups, those who didn’t want their children learning about certain non-Christian things would of course keep their children home. In the USA, this is still seemingly the case. The large majority of home educators in America are conservative Christians. Online, the groups you will find, the blogs you will read and the resources you gather will often be full of Christian materials and references.
But the dynamic has and still is changing. It happened faster in Australia, because let’s be honest, Australia is a bit of an irreligious country. No religion has gripped our population in the way that Christianity has gripped America. We have no “bible belt”, we have no expectation that every person you meet is a church goer.
And so the dynamic in home education changed first for us here. At some point it stopped being the province of only conservatives and Christians, and started being for everyone. Once people started to realise that it was an option for anyone, the numbers increased, dramatically. The reasons people home educate in Australia often have nothing to with politics and religion at all. Special needs and the increase in bullying are perhaps the largest determining factors now and these can occur for a family of any religion or any political leaning.
But there is something else as well, something that is political and sometimes religious, and it’s the opposite of the previous dynamic.
The New Age
It was in fact the collision of several things that grew at the same that has led to the new home educator. The internet is perhaps the largest factor here, but add to that environmental concerns, spiritualism and the New Age fad and you end up with the leftist home educator.
In this group you of course have all different views, but here you will find the people who enjoy the all-natural world with organic foods and products, the Vegans and vegetarians and fruitarians. Here you will find the feminists, the goddess worshippers, the hippies, Wiccans and Pagans. Here you will find the yoga posing, tree hugging, activists who also contradictorily oppose cultural appropriation.
No I am not joking. You will find these people, in abundance, in the Australian home ed community. My local home ed community for instance is full of these people – they are awesome people, but I think I have mentioned before that in some ways these people are more Pagan than I am, and they aren’t all Pagan at all.
Pagans Aren’t That Small
I run the largest Pagan Homeschooling group on Facebook with just over 3000 members from around the world (predominately US members though). I also run the much smaller, but much newer, Pagan Homeschooling Australia group, with just a touch under 100 members. I also know that these groups are in no way a good representation of the true numbers of Pagans who home educate.
Home education is perfect for Pagans really. There is a freedom we have in home education that is uniquely suited to Paganism. The ability to have a nature based education, a deity or witchy based education, a seasonal based education, a true history based education, is of great value to us. Not to mention, we can escape the Christianity that does exist in public and state schools, even though they are meant to be secular.
Christians might choose to home educate so their kids aren’t exposed to evolution and things like that. Pagans though might choose to home educate so their kids aren’t exposed to the threat of hellfire, or the indoctrination of Christmas and Easter.
Home Education Isn’t a Political or Religious Issue
Near the start of this post I pointed out that here in Australia, the largest determining factors for why people choose home education are actually nothing to do with politics and religion. Special Needs are being diagnosed more now – not because they are necessarily more, but just known about more now. Bullying has reached some massively awful extremes. These two things are what make parents from all religions and all political leanings choose to home educate.
Even those of us who are religious, whether it be conservative Christian or weirdo Pagan, don’t necessarily choose to home educate because of our religions. We instead choose to home educate because of our children, because of their need for safety or sometimes just because we think the schools are pretty ridiculous.
The fact is, religion and politics often have little to do with why we choose to home educate. Yes our religions and politics inform how we approach the education of our children, what things we might place emphasis on. Yes our religions might have some influence in the choice to home educate. But religion and politics are rarely the determining factor in why we choose this life.
And even if they are a determining factor, we’re not all right. We’re not all conservative. In point of fact there are two stereotypes about home educators in Australia – one is the conservative right wing stereotype, the other is the barefoot hippie stereotype.
If homeschooling is stereotyped by some people as being full of leftist weirdos – then that really does tell you something about how conservative we aren’t.