Friday, November 8, 2013

The Secular Minority

I was a public school teacher for over seven years, and I think sometimes that experience distorts my perceptions of society for the better. You're skeptical about that, aren't you? Let me explain.

Public schools are, of necessity, secular places. The Christian Right  probably sees that as a terrible thing, but people who aren't Christian, and even a great many moderate and liberal Christians, see it as a great boon. Kids of different faiths can learn  and play together without having to feel awkward or isolated because of religion. Sometimes they still do, but it isn't inherent in the system.

By contrast, I attended a Baptist school for the first seven years of my own education. A Pentecostal kid would feel uncomfortable in that school, and a Catholic child would have been directly taught that their faith was based on idolatry and ... well, Paganism.

I had forgotten what the world of Christian education was like until I started homeschooling. You would think that I wouldn't be exposed to it much, being Pagan and a homeschooler. (My *teaching* is more secular, but my home is so very Pagan.) You probably only think that, though, if you are either:

A) not a homeschooler
B) a very isolated homeschooler
C) a homeschooler in an area with a blissfully LARGE Pagan/secular homeschooling community

Here in Indiana, indeed this is true throughout the Midwestern United States, being a secular homeschooler is the minority population. (Based on what I'm seeing on blogs and websites, it seems to be true across the whole country.)

As a Pagan, I'm accustomed to being the minority. It's hard to find an active, *local* Pagan homeschooling group, let alone one that has kids the ages of your own kids. Depending on where you live in the US, it can be hard to find other Pagan adults. But c'mon!! It shouldn't be THIS hard to find other homeschoolers who don't reference creationism for each science lesson.

Okay, now I have to remind myself that I am not complaining that they exist and have their own groups and activities. I'm not, truly. It's nifty that that they have the first and (to my knowledge) only national homeschool honor society. It's great that there is Christian homeschool prom in Indy. I just want secular versions of those things, too. I want MY kid to have the option to participate without compromising HER principles.

And what does that mean, realistically? She who smelt it dealt it? haha! In all seriousness, though, I have long had the philosophy that if I see an issue that needs addressing and nobody's fixing it, perhaps I'm being tapped on the shoulder. 

So, ... *big sigh* I think I am going to start working on a local (Indianapolis-area) secular homeschool prom and a national secular homeschool honor society. Sure could use some help on both, if anybody has a hand, an ear, a brain, or any other useful parts to lend.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Sheep in Wolf's Clothing

As if it isn't hard enough to find a robust variety of thoughtful, well-researched secular (let alone Pagan) home-schooling resources, there seems to be a trend of masking Christian resources to make them look secular at first glance. I've had this issue recently with a conference, an association, a magazine, and even a curriculum/day planner. Here's how this trickery works:

You find an advertisement for a bright, shiny homeschooling resource offering insight and encouragement. The cover, description, marketing blurb, and other propaganda-esque components offer absolutely no hints that this nifty product or service is going to be blatantly faith-based. None. Indeed, there is nary a religious undertone, overtone, connotation, or even stealthily referenced symbol.

Confident that this product or service is intended to meet the needs of the "average homeschooler," you purchase it, only to discover that it isn't really for you, after all. The magazine's seemingly secular titles all have Biblical subtitles and Scriptural footnotes ("Is Google Making Us Stupid?: Hyper-Seeing from the Towers of Babel"). The association cyphons funds and efforts into anti-gay legislation. (What does that have to do with homeschooling anyway?). The planner has Bible verses and Christian motivational quotes on each page. the conference's college fair is almost entirely attended by Bible colleges.

"Why does it matter?" you might ask. "Strip off the Biblical veneer and get to the points they are making."

I've tried. I've even had some mild success, but here are the issues:

Not Your Average Home-Schooler

I said earlier that certain products look like they appeal to your average home-schooler. Well, maybe they do, and maybe my family just doesn't fall into that category. I don't mean to sound elitist, and I don't think of us as elite; but I do recognize that we are different.

We're Pagan, for one thing. Our educational philosophy is more secular than religious, but we are a Pagan family. That definitely sets us apart as a distinct minority.

We are certainly more liberal. I'll actually come back to that point in a moment.

I'm a former teacher, and I have my own philosophies about education. I'm flexible, I think; but I have a certain amount of confidence in my ability to do this that I see other parents struggling with at times. Kids learn. ADULTS learn. It isn't, at its heart, that complicated a thing. I don't want to be spoon-fed, and I don't think my kids do, either.

Philosophical Differences

The biggest problem with the Christian resources is that I often fundamentally (ha! pun intended) disagree with the attitudes and philosophies that underscore most Christian homeschooling materials. there is a conservative bent that is antithetical to my family's nature. If I could find liberal Christian resources that were educationally sound, I might take a look; but I haven't seen many like that. So far, most have reminded me too much of the Beka Books I myself grew up with. (That's right, folks. I'm the product of a Baptist education -- grades K-6. If it hadn't been for a father who taught me to question everything, I might still believe the nonsense I was told -- including the "fact" that dinosaur bones were placed here on Earth by Satan to confuse us and test our faith in the Word of God.)

So, why the "sheep in wolf's clothing" routine? Why are these Christian offerings putting up a front of secularism, only to beat us over the head with their faith once we've put our money on the line? I can only speculate of course. I can't let ALL of them claim ignorance. The magazine (staffed by wordsmiths) was certainly too clever. Maybe it's their way of testifying to us heathens. Maybe they honestly think they won't sell enough copies if they are too forthcoming in their faith.

I'm an optimist, though, and I'm still looking for the silver lining in all of this. Every cloud has one. I don't just present you with problems, if I can't present at least one solution.

I didn't actually pay any money to the organization that supports anti-gay legislation. And I won't. Ever. (It's the Home School Legal Defense Association. They are very open about their stance. You should be aware before you send them money yourself.)

I created my own planner pages based on the ones I found most useful from the purchased one, and I'll be sharing them with you here. They're completely secular, though maybe I'll make some Pagan ones someday for those who would like them.

I got some truly useful information from the conference. I don't mind prayers or layering concepts of God's Will over the top of the discussion, as long as the discussion itself is relevant and useful. I got to sit in on at least three really useful break-out sessions. That rocked. I'll go back next year.

As for the magazine, I've got a subscription, and I'm going to make the best of it. Some of the articles in this issue weren't so bad, and the others helped me sharpen my opinions into clearer focus. I will likely find grist for THIS mill within those pages, and perhaps that is the only reason I subscribed.

Addition as of Nov 8, 2013:
 I wanted to add some pics based on some convos I'm having off-blog. I know it's hard to read the titles, but this is what they say on the cover:
5 Ways to  Make Online Schooling Work for You!
Three Thoughts to Think Twice About Technology
Bad Manners Masquerading as Media
Is Google Making Us Stupid?
Resist the Techno Babysitter!

The blurb on the magazine's website is equally faith-neutral and can be found here.

As soon as you open the covers, though, the first ads say "Build faith" and "Explore creation." You know right off that you've taken a misstep. But, okay, we'll still give the staff-writers a shot. Then come the articles.

Proverbs 31 in the .com World
The Blessings of Technology
The Bible and Your Smartphone
Is Google Make Us Stupid? Hyperseeing from the Towers of Babel
The Techno Beast

Again, not all of the article are so faith-focused, but it is clear that the magazine has a theme? Why not be forthcoming with that information in their advertising? I wouldn't have subscribed, no. But I also wouldn't be a dissatisfied subscriber.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...