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What ‘Angry Atheists’ Need to Know About Homeschooling

You know when you KNOW you shouldn’t read the comments on a particular news story or blog post, and yet you do anyway? That’s what happened to me this morning.

Today I read this blog post regarding the decision of a Virginia school district to give up on a policy that would require homeschooled teens to write a statement of religious belief. The post itself was well-written and full of helpful information. I don’t necessarily agree with it, but it wasn’t offensive.

The comments, however, whoo boy!

My personal favorite, “Homeschooled kids are for the most part academically poor and badly socialized.”

This followed the commenter’s declaration that he has seen “dozens” of homeschooled children and they are “all” failures. Unfortunately, this seems to be the common theme amongst the commenters.

Now, let’s notice that this is from an atheist website.

Let me veer off for a second and share a recent experience.

As you know, I am an atheist. I raise my kids in a “godless” home. They have studied many world religions, because it’s a hobby of both mine and their father’s, but we look at them as myths or literature. They know these are stories and ideas that other people believe, they know I do not, and they know I would never judge them if they discovered a faith that they believed was true.

I’m an atheist, but I love religion and I’ve no problem with people believing whatever they believe. That’s their right as Americans, just as it’s mine to not believe it. It’s awesome how that works out.

So anyway, I recently was given the opportunity to review a homeschooling product that is from a Christian perspective. I’d just received the product in the mail and was making plans to use it with my children when I get this email advertisement from another homeschooling site.

“The Product That ‘Angry Atheists’ Don’t Want You to See.”

I’m always curious about what My People (you know, the “Angry Atheists”) are up to these days, so I opened it. No joke, it was for the EXACT product I am supposed to be reviewing! Frankly, I was upset. Basically, I don’t want to be part of something that doesn’t want me.

And yet, that’s where I find myself so often…

After reading the comments on this atheist blog post, I understand where we atheists get our bad reputation. I mean, here are My People spouting off “facts” and “statistics” about how homeschooling is child abuse. How homeschooled kids are less knowledgeable and more awkward than their public schooled counterparts. Ouch. Their words are angry, and they hurt.

There was a time, a generation or two ago, when homeschooling was only for hippies and religious zealots. I’m sure there were (and probably still are) children being raised with no knowledge of the outside world, being stuck on their homesteads with no textbook except the Bible.

Nowadays, this is the exception, not the rule.

And here’s a secret for you: religious zealots of the level you “angry atheists” are worrying about are going to raise their children in ways you don’t agree with and will never understand, regardless of if they have state guidelines and public school or not. There are a million ways to mess up a kid, education is but a drop in the crazy bucket.

Today homeschoolers come from all walks of life. There are homeschoolers of every religious and ethnic background. There are homeschoolers who educate their children at home for religious reasons, and there are homeschoolers who do it for academic reasons.

And there are homeschoolers, like me, who do it because we want to.

Homeschooling is fun. It allows my children and me freedom to be who we want to be and learn what we want to learn, on our own schedule. Homeschooling gives us the opportunity to read a book about a president, then hop in the car and go to his childhood home, or to watch an IMAX film about the oceans then plan a trip to go collect seashells on the beach.

Homeschooling means that if my sons get wrapped up in learning about robotics, we can take a week off from our regular schedule of reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic and turn our kitchen into a robot laboratory.

These “angry atheists” feel there needs to be more government regulation on homeschooling. They, these all-knowing commenters of blog posts, believe that children have a right to education and should have the— umm… opportunity?— to follow the same state standards that all public school children have.

I politely disagree.

I do not want the government involved in my children’s education. Is this because I teach my kids anything wrong or bad, or that my children are too ignorant to pass the state tests? No, of course not. I am not ashamed of my children or their education, I just don’t want to do what other people tell me to.

If I have to follow a state-mandated curriculum, we lose the freedom we value so greatly. That freedom is what gives us the opportunity to learn and retain more through real-life experiential learning.

If I spend my days checking off boxes making sure we practiced our vocabulary words and figured out the value of X, I cannot give my children the education they deserve.

Maybe you’re one of these “angry atheists,” and maybe right now you’re thinking, “sure, you sound sane and like you’re giving your kids a decent education, but what about the thousands of other homeschoolers out there locking their kids in the closet until they memorize today’s Bible verse?”

Well, here’s the thing: I spend a lot of time in my community working with local homeschoolers. I’m not a homeschooling superstar or anything, but I’d say in the last few years I’ve come in contact with and talked to a couple thousand homeschoolers. Many of them go to church and incorporate their faith into their days, because that’s important to them. Many have faith but teach in a secular manner.

Though we are the minority, there are a good number of completely secular homeschoolers as well. There is a portion, especially in my area, that do believe and teach things I don’t agree with, especially with respect to science. I’d say this number is equal to or less than the number of purely atheist homeschoolers (which is to say, there aren’t really that many of them). And here’s the thing, even within this group, the majority of these homeschoolers are knowledgable on many subjects. They are smart, well-spoken, and go on to do great things with their lives.

The “angry atheists” I have been writing about today are but a handful of non-believing folk. Most nonbelievers have a nice “live and let live” attitude, but the squeaky wheel gets the grease, right?

People tend to think that nonbelievers are angry and hateful and want to destroy all mentions of religion, because those are the people who make the most noise. Most homeschoolers are fairly normal people who value knowledge and teach their children things from all walks of life, but unfortunately most people think homeschoolers are the crazy religious right that believe women can’t wear pants and science doesn’t exist. And why wouldn’t people think that, when the loudest representatives of educating at home are fundamentalist religious leaders and, well, The Duggars?

I think the lesson to be gleaned from this rant is, don’t judge people you don’t know. Don’t assume because I’m a homeschooler that I abuse my children or don’t teach them appropriately. Don’t assume because I’m an atheist that I have no morals or want to destroy Christianity.

Get to know PEOPLE, not labels.

Stephanie is a homeschool writer, speaker, and consultant in Central Indiana. When not writing, speaking, consulting, and homeschooling, she enjoys reading, baking, hiking, and sleeping. Mostly sleeping.