For the first time ever, I am seriously considering homeschooling. I work from home, so I have the flexibility needed to manage it. Mike could help via the internet until he’s able to join us permanently.
On searching for homeschool resources in my area, I kept finding Christian and Bible-based curricula . After listing a few well-known sources, one secular homeschool mom said the following:
Unfortunately, these curricula are so steeped in Christianity that even purchasing individual subjects will not shield you from the onslaught of indoctrination. Yes, my friend, even mathematics can be related to the glory of god!
It was through Secular Homeschool that I found several other sites offering support and resources for atheists who want to homeschool, or even Christians and other theists who choose homeschooling but do not want a Bible-based curriculum. Two of the sites I found were Atheist Homeschool.com and Homeschooling Freethinkers, both of which link to a large variety of other sources.
The curriculum packages can be very expensive, and Mike and I are not in a position right now to purchase our top choices. We could do next year, but I’m not sure we can hold out that long due to the nature of the problems at my son’s school, which I will explain shortly.
A friend (I’ll allow her to identify herself if she wants to) very graciously offered her help and support, and even pointed me toward an online homeschooling program that she uses for her son. This would definitely be a good place to start. It’s immediately available, it’s affordable, and it meets the requirement to obtain a curriculum which teaches reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics and a study of good citizenship, and to pursue that curriculum in a bona fide manner.
We can always add to it, and I’m sure we would. My son would write essays and research papers, we would have discussions and take field trips, and anything else we can think of to keep it challenging, yet fun.
We will probably join the Texas Home School Coalition as well. As members, we will be provided with legal assistance and an attorney will intervene on our behalf to local authorities, should the need arise. Although THSC was established because of a desire amongst Christians to remove their children from public schools for various reasons, and my local support group is Christian based (I don’t have to join it), it seems THSC practices the principle of my favorite Thomas Paine quote:
He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from opposition; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach himself.
I wrote to them explaining that I am atheist and that I am considering homeschooling. I asked if I could still join and if they would represent me. I received this email yesterday:
THSC members are not required to list a religious affiliation in order to join THSC. […]
Our members have available to them legal assistance on all legal issues related to home education. THSC Association has retained Shelby Sharpe, the Ft. Worth attorney who represented home school families in the landmark Leeper vs. Arlington ISD case, which clarified that home education is legal in Texas. THSC Association members also receive teacher and student ID cards, as well as great rates on life, health, home, and auto insurance and various discounts from companies such as Dell, Education Plus, Discover Texas, and others. (View the long list of THSC Association membership benefits at http://www.thsc.org/Getting_started/benefit_list.asp.)
Joining is probably not a necessity, but knowing that I can simply refer inquiries and disputes to someone more qualified to handle them would certainly make things less stressful for me.
It’s ironic, too, that so many parents choose to homeschool because public schools do not offer religious training, and yet one of my reasons for considering this is because I see too much religion being smuggled into the public schools. But that is by no means my main reason, and as much as I oppose it, if that was all I had to worry about, I wouldn’t consider homeschooling at all.
I am concerned more with the fact that schools and teachers are under increasing pressure to “teach to the TAKS“, a high-stakes standardized assessment test that, if failed, can result in grade retention, regardless of how well a student performs otherwise throughout the school year. Students are basically injected full of facts and squeezed until the answers shoot out. It doesn’t matter how they arrive at their answers, as long their answers are correct; it’s the worst kind of rote learning.
Schools “see students as scores,” Sutterby said. “It considers them a liability if they don’t do as well.”
This is understandable in light of the fact that No Child Left Behind ties funding to test scores which can result in withholding funds from schools which need it the most.
TAKS and NCLB are flops and they are jeopardizing the quality of education offered in Texas public schools.
Another reason I am considering homeschool is because of the rampant bullying at my son’s school. It has been an ongoing problem since we moved to the school district we are now in, and no-one seems to have a solution. To give a clearer picture of what we have been dealing with, here is part of what I have just emailed to the Director of STEM at my son’s campus:
A lot of [John’s] frustration stems from feeling isolated and not at all supported. Over the past couple of years, this has been a developing pattern as well. He is encouraged to always seek help from a teacher or counselor when he is being threatened or otherwise bullied, but every time he does, he is either told simply to ignore it, or he is questioned as to what he did to cause or deserve it. This is victim-blaming and it is completely unacceptable. It also increases his level of frustration and the sense that he has to take action himself because no one else ever does.
I have heard vague innuendoes as to how [John] is somehow responsible for this ongoing problem; how it “sort of seems like it might be something he may have done” and that kind of thing, but never anything coherent or any specific behavior that I can address. […]
This will be [John’s] third year at [school district], and this is where the problems began. I have heard enough of the aforementioned vague innuendoes, and this year I am nipping it in the bud and putting my foot down. Unless there is a specific behavior or problem that I need to address, I do not want to hear how something “might possibly be a potential pattern” with [John]. There is clearly a problem with bullying in the school, and the notion that victims of bullying should be treated the same way as the bullies is insulting, demeaning and absurd, implying that victims are complicit in their own abuse.
I will do everything I can to work with you and help resolve this problem but, like [John], I am feeling increasingly frustrated and marginalized, doubted and even blamed. I want, more than anything, to work with all of [John’s] teachers to help him succeed. This includes dealing with behavioral problems, which I can only do if I have something specific to deal with. That he has a potential problem with attracting bullies, or causing other people to behave badly is not something I can address or deal with. It’s blaming [John] for other people’s behavior and that is not acceptable.
[…]I simply cannot support a system that treats victims of abuse the same way it treats the abusers, and I believe this finally needed to be said.
One other thing that, in isolation, I could have rolled my eyes at and moved on, was something the Principal said at a recent PTA meeting. She mentioned that a parent had called and expressed concern (“complained”) that not enough was being done about the bullying and what she (the parent) suspected was gang activity at the school. The parent thought, as I do, that it’s being downplayed and she no longer felt confident that her child was safe at school. This is a paraphrase of the Principal’s response:
Don’t call and complain about how we’re doing our jobs unless you are prepared to come up here and help by volunteering in the classrooms, the hallways, the cafeteria or the grounds.
So parents are expected to leave (possibly lose) the jobs that they get paid for to come and help her do the job that she gets paid for? The fact that she made such an asinine comment is enough to make me question her judgment and leadership abilities. They encourage parental involvement, but what they really want is unquestioned, obedient support of whatever they do (or don’t do), right or wrong.
We will try to ride things out until they dismiss for Christmas break. They all know that I’m watching closely, taking notes and names. I’d like to see things improve, but I’m not holding my breath. If things are still the same at Christmas, rather than sending John back after the break, I’ll send a certified letter notifying the school that John will not be returning and should be withdrawn from the student roll.
Feedback and suggestions are welcome.