I have been a committed atheist for 20 years. My wife and I decided long ago the we would like to homeschool our son. We both are educated and she has a teaching background. My reasons for home schooling my son, now 12, are complicated but it goes something like this. I really like my kid and enjoy every minute we spend together. I am a science and history nut and have read most of the great classics and love to pass this on. My wife has a solid background in art, design and literature. We very much wanted to have a larger part in our son's life and feel it haas been quite successful We can get far more in depth than the school system can and we can do it in less time, so it is a very flexible life.
We study all manner of things but I have been concentrating on science, history and algebra. For instance, I have been taking popular general science books and we read then aloud together. So far this last year, we have read Phil Plait's Death from the skies, Neil Tyson's Death by Black Hole, Coyne's Why Evolution is True, Bill Bryson's A Brief History of Nearly Everything and others. Soon we start on Dawkin's The Greatest Show On Earth. As you see I am trying to raise a good solid freethinker. Our only difficulty is that the vast majority of other home schoolers are very religious. For example, the educational children's speaker at the home educator conference in North Dakota is someone from Answers in Genesis who sings quaint little songs about dinosaurs and people coexisting.
The few we have that are less religious do band together a bit. So you have a few pagans, some light Christians, a Buddhist all pushed together. We call ourselves non-aligned. My question is this. I'm the only atheist homeschooler I know. Are there others?
There are many others! You really don't have to worry, as I do not think you're in a "minority". It doesn't feel like it anyways. You'll find that many homeschooling mothers and fathers are actually agnostic/atheist. I think that its great that you want to homeschool your son. Is there any particular way you are currently looking into?
Also, certain states of more strict than other on homeschooling, especially certain ways. There are curriculum packages, but as far as I'm concerned they are a waste of time when you have better and cheaper books for your children.
I understand where you are coming from. You and I are on opposite ends of the spectrum, as public school did a lot of damage to me during my formative years, and thus my mother homeschooled me in an attempt to try and work through my issues without hordes of children stampeding through hallways, classes, etcetera. We tried a curriculum for the first year, but I basically said 'fuck it' and taught myself a lot of stuff. It is a different generation in many ways, and I have to admit it must have been extremely tough to be a homeschooler ten to twenty years ago, not mention anything beyond that.
You are right when you say that children must grow past their parents. Nowadays you will find many homeschooling groups that span religion, cultural views and predisposed ideals. There are many groups catering to a certain branch of homeschooling, and not only do children learn more but their horizons are broadened by all kinds of people. Not to mention that many people of my category (unschooling) do teach their children to fly free, and learn all the sides of the dice. It is good to teach children to spread their wings and to learn how to deal with the bullshit that lies out there. It doesn't happen from just two people, it happens from many people and many experiences that were different from their parents. It is good to realize as a child that you are not your parents, whether its mom or dad.
I hope this is not offensive to you in any way, I am just expressing my opinion and trying to understand where you are coming from. I have heard many horror stories of children that were raised with the fundamentalist ideals and homeschooled. Met a couple of those kids, too.
I think when the teasing puts you in danger it's definitely a situation where you need to be home schooled. I know kids who's parents switched schools on them and that made the problem even worse. Being the strange kid in school is bad, being the new strange kid is worse.
I think sometimes teasing can be very educational. I remember when I was in high school I wanted so badly to be like the jocks who played on the football team. I had played football for 5 years prior to high school but took three years off to pursue a life of pot smoking and skateboarding. When I came back to the sport I had a huge target on my back and suffered quite a few beatings and verbal assaults which helped me realize that people can be some serious pricks. It sounds terrible, but some kids need to be thrown to the wolves for a while just to get a realistic perspective on life.
I credit the teasing I had in school with teaching me what kind of people I wanted to associate myself with. Now I have great relationships with great people. Granted, I'm also jaded and cynical but it's something I'm quite proud of!
Me, me, me! Well soon to be me anyway. We have made the jump to homeschool our daughter starting next year so she can finish out Kindergarten in the public school she is in. Our son has "special needs" so I can't come close to what his school offers without driving myself completely mad, so he will stay in his school. The homeschooling group I recently joined meets weekly, they have field trips and they have a good diversity of the softer religions like pagans as well as some atheists. I already know a few atheist members and I think I will fit right in.
My argument against homeschooling, for a long time, was similar to Verne's, though not as personal. It was because I saw so many religious homeschooling parents (my sister included) that never let their kids leave the house to socialize or explore the world around them or learn about anything other than the Bible. And then I came in contact with freethinking parents who homeschool. It gave me a completely different outlook and I realized that public school teaches our children very little about the real world.
Public school (at least here in the southern US) doesn't encourage free inquiry or the pursuit of individual personality. It teaches our children how to be herded and institutionalized. It teaches children how to do what they are told, when they are told. Homeschooling gives children the time to socialize with people in the real world, not just those who are forced to attend a specific school because of where they live. It gives children the opportunity to just be children instead of being away from home, from family - what matters most, for eight hours a day, being forced to become what society dictates for them. It gives children the opportunity to learn at their own pace instead of one that is predetermined for them by someone who knows nothing about them or how they learn.
You are not alone! And check out that group that Nerd recommended, it's good.
As an 18 year old still in a Catholic High School I have seen my fare share of kids that have been in home school their whole life and High School is there first chance in a non-home schooled setting. The reason that this is (I think) that the parents are unable to teach math or science to the level to get there kids to test even average. The kids I have met have been in ALL cases socially stunted to the extreme. With this being said these kids for the most part are all from family's of fundamentalist Christians, so I have never seen any kid home schooled from a secular education by well educated parents such as yourselves. I have never heard of a atheist being home schooled but going to a catholic school could give me a very scued perception of how it may really be. All in all I cant help it but Home Schooling makes me nervous because of how bad I have seen these kids act socially. I am curious if anyone has had a different experiences or feelings?
I think it's great when parents get more involved in their child's education. After all, as atheists we don't leave the parenting up to the sky man like most religious people do. Atheists take a hands-on approach to educating their children and has always pleased me. That being said...
A HUGE part of a child's education is the experience of going to school. Children learn at an early age to be independent and fend for themselves. As atheists, we want to keep our kids (general statement. I don't have children) away from the reach of religious fundamentalism in schooling but it's something they need to be confronted with. How else will your child learn it's wrong? No parent's word is strong enough to be the final say, the children need to see it for themselves.
If your child has a problem and needs to be taken out for his/her safety that's one thing but I'd at least give them the option of going to a public school in middle school if they'd like to.
I'm childfree, but if I did have kids, I'd homeschool them. The only schools in this area are Church of England affiliated. Having been through the religious education system (of of necessity rather than my parents religion), I would not want to subject my child to such indoctrination.