A lot is written about religious homeschooling. But not so much is written about why families choose secular homeschooling. It would seem that secular homeschool families are as rare as snowflakes in Florida. But hey, did you notice it snowed in Tallahassee this week? It’s true – look closely and you’ll discover we aren’t as rare as we used to be!
There’s as many reasons for secular homeschooling as there are secular homeschoolers. Here’s a look at a few of the most common ones.
Developmental or Medical Needs
This reason started our family with secular homeschooling. Our daughter has both autism and juvenile arthritis. As many children with autism encounter, the resources offered Bridget by the local schools were inadequate. She also missed school frequently for her arthritis treatment, and that affected her education. Her treatment leaves her immune suppressed, so a school swarming with germ-y kids was not a great place for her to be.
When the school withdrew some critical services at the start of her 6th grade year, that was the last straw. We decided to join the thousands of parents in this state who homeschool their special needs children through the Gardiner Scholarship program. It’s proved to be an amazing decision for our family. Bridget stays safe from bullying peers, and we custom design her education around her developmental level and her medical treatment schedule. She also receives much more speech therapy than she got at the local district. Best of all – she loves it!
Another group of children that secular homeschooling can allow to work at their own pace are gifted children. Keeping gifted children challenged in a school requires a lot of resources to put into advanced programs (and the will to spend them). Many districts cannot meet the challenge. Homeschooling allows gifted children to pursue more advanced school work than their peers, graduate high school early, or delve deeper into special interests.
Without a doubt, one of the most hated parts of modern education is the mandatory high stakes testing. It’s stressful for kids, and time spent prepping for the tests takes away from classroom learning time. Since test results affect funding, schools often “teach to the test”, narrowing curriculum to the contents of the states’ tests.
In many states (including Florida, where we live) opting to homeschool removes the requirement altogether to take the tests. This has been a major benefit for us in secular homeschooling. My daughter, despite her good grades, never performed well on the tests and the pressure stressed her out. She’s now free to demonstrate her knowledge in ways that are more suitable to her development and ability.
It’s not just religious homeschoolers that want control of what curriculum their children learn. Many families choose secular homeschooling for the same reason, because they disagree with content and curriculum choices made by their states or local districts.
These disagreements can be method based (such as wanting to have math taught the way they learned it). Or the disagreements can be more philosophical. Parents may want a more literature based curriculum, or a more global perspective than local schools offer. Whatever the reason, homeschooling allows parents the chance to control the content of their child’s education from the ground up.
Freedom to Travel
Anyone who has traveled during a school vacation has probably wished they could choose a cheaper or less crowded time of year. Choosing secular homeschooling frees families from the tyranny of the traditional school year calendar. Families can travel whenever it is affordable and desirable.
One group of homeschoolers have taken the freedom to travel to an extreme. This particular breed of homeschoolers even coined their own name: road schoolers. These families, powered by parents with jobs that are mobile, take their schooling on the road full time. Many live in RVs, traveling the U.S., or some even travel the world. It really is true – the world can be a classroom!
Bullying or Unsafe Schools
We hear about this topic a lot in the media lately, unfortunately usually when bullying ends in tragic results. More and more parents are choosing secular homeschooling to remove their children from toxic school environments. Keeping your children in school for socialization doesn’t seem as appealing when that socialization includes bullying, social media harassment, and worse.
It would be nice if we all lived in districts with high quality schools but the reality is that we don’t. For families living in failing school districts, secular homeschooling can be one of the only viable options to rescue their child’s education. If a family doesn’t want (or can’t afford) to enroll in a religious private school, secular homeschooling is the only alternative in most communities.
This relatively small group of students are homeschooled mostly out of practical necessity. Students who are working actors or musicians, elite athletes, or engaged in other time consuming elite activities turn to homeschooling for more flexible scheduling. Homeschooling also accommodates the need to travel for their activities. Hey, it worked out alright for Serena & Venus Williams. (I’m still reserving judgement on Justin Bieber though…)
Are you secular homeschooling? Why did you start? Tell me in the comments!