What Is a Secular Homeschool?
Because many homeschools with a religious focus view themselves in opposition to public schooling, they proudly represent themselves as Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, or Bible homeschoolers. But homeschoolers who don’t opt out of the public school for religious reasons – they may, instead be concerned about school safety, academic quality, or other important issues – do not necessarily start off thinking of themselves as secular.
Secular homeschools may be very much like public schools: they may have similar schedules, subjects, textbooks, and pedagogy. Or, they may have a particular perspective such as Great Books, Waldorf, Montessori, or unschooling. Of course, there are atheist homeschoolers who find that public schools are hotbeds of “Christian proselytizing” and choose to take their children out. But for non-atheist homeschoolers, the thing that may be more likely to push them to define themselves as “secular” is when they try to differentiate themselves from religious homeschoolers and their approaches and views.
Partly, they may be concerned that the general public thinks that all people who homeschool do so for religious reasons. They also may find that when they search for homeschool materials, resources, books, supplies, and advice, they continually are running into products, services, and people with a strong religious element, and so are driven to search for and define themselves as secular in order to find what they need and define themselves to others. Joining an inclusive support group that includes some religious homeschoolers is another situation that could potentially lead homeschoolers to define themselves as secular.
Differences Between Secular Homeschooling and Religious Homeschooling
Some secular and religious homeschooling is similar in one way: that a particular belief system shapes everything that goes on in the classroom. This is true in Bible-based homeschooling, in which all lessons, from Bible to math, are taught with reference to Biblical stories and beliefs. But it’s also true in Waldorf and Montessori home-schooling and unschooling. The beliefs guide and shape the curriculum and its presentation.
But for other secular homeschoolers, those who do not follow a particular philosophy – which may either mean that they fall into the group of homeschoolers known as eclectic or that they use many public school methods – they don’t or don’t seem themselves as having a single, shaping vision that guides all their choices other than providing their children with an excellent, safe education.
Types of Homeschooling That Could Be Secular
Although there is no rule that certain types of homeschooling must be secular, here is a brief introduction to some that often are.
Often preferring to be known as home education, unschoolers create a situation in which children decide what is most important to them to learn. In this type of homeschooling, parents take a supporting role and follow their children’s lead.
Montessori is an educational approach that is based on the educational methodology of Maria Montessori and is used in both schools and in homeschooling. Like unschooling, it is a child-centered curriculum.
Like Montessori, the Waldorf approach is used both in schools and in homeschooling. It derives from the pedagogy developed by Rudolf Steiner and is concerned with a desire to educate the “whole child.”
The Great Books approach is based on the work of of Robert Hutchings and Mortimer Adler. It’s a literature-based curriculum based on the traditional liberal education.
Eclectic homeschools freely combine elements of different approaches. They may use textbooks, worksheets, free materials, distance learning, and combine elements of unschooling, Montessori, or Waldorf approaches.