(This is a Blog post I will put up in a few places to get a healthy variety of opinions, both religious and non religious,
I would ask if you are in any way religious to put yourself in my position by imagining that the only schooling available
to your child taught a different religion than the one you are. Also please mention your religious beliefs in your post so
I can more easily see "where everyone is coming from" Thank you for your reply and help)


It's that time for me, a time I had been looking forward to and dreading since she was born. Caitlin needs to be enrolled in public school to start Grade 0 next year.


I am lucky that bacuse we live with my dad in a little house they bought a decade ago, in what was then a new development, and what has become quite a safe, and good neighbourhood, that the closest public school is also known as one of the best in this region.


Going through the 100's of forms ( some of them involving selling my soul into permanent bondage if I ever can not pay them) the inevitable question always comes up. The one I had been dreading and could have such a huge impact on her life.


Firstly it is asked " Religion?" hmmmm first instinct is "None", in which case it might most probably be assumed we don't care, or we are godless lazy creatures, who are really undiscovered Christians, as long as someone manages to convert us from lazing in bed all sunday morning instead of getting off our behinds and going to church. (You'd be surprised how many Christians around me actually think this)


Second option: Secular Humanist. If I am lucky I might find a teacher who knows what this entails in it's entirety. In that case I hope they tell me as well, as it is just a term I recently adopted because of the wiki page putting this in as part of the definition:

"Fundamental to the concept of Secular Humanism is the strongly held belief that ideology — be it religious or political — must be thoroughly examined by each individual and not simply accepted or rejected on faith"


Ok so let's leave the "religion" question there. Now comes the Doozy. Next conundrum and the true test of my child's future influences lie in this easy little question:


" Do you have any objections to your child partcipating in any religious activities?"

If YES, please furnish reasons.


Now firstly I need to now what do these religious activities entail? Will there be forced bible reading, lively questioning? Will it be more moral or more religious? Will there be forced prayer and false piety?


What happens if I state Yes I object? Will she be rejected by her peers as strange and weird? Will she be rejected and targetted by teachers for the same reasons?


I've always said I will allow her to make up her own mind one day. but In my opinion I will be doing her an injustice to allow her to be subjected to the same kind of brainwashing that I was as a child and teen.In order to find one's own truth one needs to be educated on all the available options. Somehow I doubt this is done properly in most schools.


I wouldn't mind her receiving religious education that is educational, factual, and discusses the main religions and their similarities and differences. But I don't think I want her to take part in any form of worship activities.In her current school there is a huge preponderance of religious worship, they barely do secular nursery rhymes and stories, most of it is focussed on religious stories and songs.


I was never made aware of this before enrolling her, and obviously I am scared of the Primary school taking the same sneaky approach, or just assuming that this is okay with everyone, when it clearly isn't.


Maybe I must just included a whole letter stating more clearly what our beliefs are or rather aren't? Or finally take the time to thing and write down a kind of personal manifesto of beliefs which I can attatch.


Or do you think I am making too much of this and should just let her be shepherded along with the other sheep and hope she doesn't get too brainwashed?


Oh and unlike the USA, South African schools can and do offer religious teachings as long as they are in line with this Draft policy on Education ( which I have heard is not enforcable as it is only a draft policy, and which many schools have been known to ignore)


Unfortunately my only other choice in school is much more openly Christian, even though they are also a public school. At least this one gives me a choice. The other automatically assume that one is a Christian.


What I wish for is not only Freedom of Religion in all governments and school, But Freedom FROM Religion


(After posting this in a South African Parenting Forum, that I have been a member of since it's start more than 4 years ago. I realised that there seems to be much misunderstanding between the term, Non-Religious, and non-practising religious/christian. It seems some people confuse Non-theism and non-religion, with religious apathy, when this is one thing I am Definitely not. I also realised once again just How VERY important the subject is for me. I decided to share it here, in order to help even more people, who like me, might be facing some of the same issues.)

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It's hard for an American to answer your question. We do not have religious instruction in the public schools and do not have to face the decision you do. I'm sorry you have to do so. But, I let my daughter attend mass with her father until she got older and decided she no longer wanted to go. I would not prevent religious instruction, I think children should be exposed to it, and then as a parent discuss with the child your thoughts on the subject. Most kids I know do not take the religious education seriously, and if you are involved, your child will be much better off. I have seen some kids who are too protected from religious indoctrination can be easier to convert later in life.
Good luck

It's so different than here in the U.S. that I really don't have much to comment on. Would the school actually share your religious affiliation with other people? That just seems wrong (of course once on paper these things seem to have a way of getting out).


Good luck with that!

Firstly, I must say I am surprised that there are places worse than the US, places which aren't developing nations anyway. Well, truly I don't know anything about South Africa, but the US has similar problems, though I would have to agree with the others that they seem not all that bad in comparison. Anyway, it does seem particularly difficult, I certainly don't envy your position. Another thing I would say is that having gone to religious schools and whatnot and having to go through all the tedious rituals, well, that probably did have a lot to do with me being still firmer in my atheism. I don't want my kids learning that junk, but I don't know, maybe it will innoculate them. I'll have to think more about this one.

Thanks for this post, Elaine. I wouldn't try to make too much of a stand here, it doesn't look like it would have much effect other than perhaps a negative one. I might have answered the question asking for reasons for why you object to your child engaging in religious practices with something that makes the question seem ridiculous (which of course it is). Maybe "you furnish me with reasons why my kid should engage in religious practices and I'll furnish you with reasons why she shouldn't." Or, "my reasons are my own, and they are none of your business. Now respect my wishes with my child, and keep your nose out of my personal system of beliefs". Or "none of your damn business". I completely understand the desire for wanting to go into a huge tirade and explain the world to these people so that your place in it makes sense to them, but that's just not gonna happen. Since they won't understand your position, feel no need to explain it to them. There's another good response. Good luck, let us know how it turns out.
Elaine, I don't envy your conundrum. Our boy Vito is in first grade in a small, but liberal town in the Northeastern U.S. He has also attended school in a large Conservative city in the Midwest. We have found that, in spite of our "non-religious" public school system (for which his current school admirably tries to respect), most of his friends attend church or at least claim a belief in god. My husband and I prefer to use the term 'anti-theist' for ourselves - it leaves no question as to our lack of belief in a supreme being. However, we impress upon Vito the fact that he is too young to completely understand what all of that means. He'll have to wait awhile - learn more as he goes - before he can make that decision for himself. When he says that he doesn't believe in god (another example of how most children think what their parents think), we make him tell us why. And we reinforce the fact that he will learn more as he matures. It's just like our conversations about kissing, etc. He knows there's more to learn and we're not ready to go there yet. His friends at school encourage him to come to their church, where they have snacks and movies - it's FUN! He understands that it's just like the Happy Meal at McDonald's - a way to bring you in - that's fair, but we're still the parents. As to the issue of letting him GO to church - absolutely not. Church is not the way to teach a child the facts in an objective way. So, I guess what I'm saying is that it really lies with you and your child. Authority figures are HUGE to a child. We have already had several opportunities to let Vito know that his teachers aren't always right - that we're all just people. But it's a constant battle to keep up with what's being put into his head and balancing that with teaching him to have, not only an open mind, but respect for other people's choices. I wish you the best of luck and hope that you will update us. Skol!
I don't know what the homeschooling laws are in your country, but I homeschool my girls using an online secular virtual school where they and I are very happy.
Grace, may I ask what is the "online secular virtual school" that you use with your daughters? Perhaps there is a link you could post? I would love to learn more about such a thing.

I don't know if this is the one that Grace uses but one that is common is k12.com. In some states it is a charter public school and therefore all public school rules apply (here's a link to the MA virtual school that opened this fall), where they are not an approved public school you can use it as a private school or just for individual courses. 

I use www.time4learning.com  It only goes up to grade 8, but it is wonderful.  You just have to make sure your kids do it everyday.  They keep all the records and do all the testing for you.  Plus you can adjust what grade level your child is in each subject.  For example. my dd is on 3rd grade level for social studies and science, and 2nd for math and reading.  She can actually read at 3rd or 4th grade level, she is just lazy on taking the tests.  When the child has completed a section, it puts a star on this section and a check mark on the units within the section.  I thought she was horribly behind on her reading assignments, but she just wasn't taking the tests. 


If your state requires standardized testing, you'll have to get that through a homeschooling group since most states won't allow you to test your own child.  Time4learning has complied all the standards for all 50 states and meets or exceeds all their requirements.   I showed the neighbor boy who is in fourth grade  what my dd was doing in 2nd grade math and it was the same thing.  Their math has a lot of math theory that I don't think I even learned in college.  


We tried Hawaii Virtual School (free if you live in Hawaii) and it was just online textbooks.  I am no fan of the online textbook for 1st graders.  It was hard to keep your place marked and it was not at all what I wanted.  I wanted a real school online where I just helped not to do the whole thing myself.  Plus it cost $695 a year. 


Time4Learning is $20/month for the first child and $15/month for each additional child.  That is less than you'll pay in lunch money alone.  For an additional $10/year my daughter takes art lessons which not only teaches her how to do computer art, but art theory as well.  Since she wants to be an artist, I think this is a bargain.  You can also get supplementary reading and spelling over the summer.  I choose not to do that since we are homeschooling through the summer anyway. 


They have parent forums as well which I haven't used.  Dh is building a computer for dd and when she has her own computer, she can post her art to their online art gallery and chat with other time4learning kids in their private chat rooms.  It's site membership exclusive, so you don't have to worry so much about weirdos. 


We've been really pleased with time4learning.  Even though it's the cheapest one out there, we like it the best.  If you live in a state that supports it, Connections Academy is free.  It's a great program.  it truly is public school at home with teachers calling you and coming by to offer private tutoring.   They keep close tabs on when and how much time your child is spending on school work.  So say your kid is really burned out and you're letting them take a break, but it's during the normal school year.  You may get a call from the teacher.  I didn't want to put up with that crap.  I know people who love it, but I don't know anyone whose used it for more than a year.  Plus if your state doesn't support it, the program is around $3,000/ year. 


Let's go to the topic of cost...

Some of these online schools are expensive.  I think it was Calvert which cost $12,000/ year.  I think k12 charges per course and can be a little pricey.  Religious programs seem to cost a little less than secular ones.  Of course, there's a lot more of them.  too.  If you want to go do it yourself textbook way many christians prefer, it's hard to find a 100% religion free series.  Singapore Math is one and I think I remember a couple of others.  They cost a bit and it's harder to find them used at homeschool book sales, because so many traditional homeschoolers are doing it for religious reasons. 


The reading selection at time4learning is almost completely about science.  My dd loves science and hates books with princesses or frogs that talk.  She also hated the simple minded stories in her reading textbooks.  She'd rather read about volcanoes and spiders than see spot run.  The reading area is mainly a science area.  She likes that. 


One of my problems was finding a virtual school or traditional program with a strong emphasis in math and science.  There is almost no science out there for young kids which is just a tragedy, imo.  Time4learning has a strong emphasis in both areas which I like.  The social studies area is okay.  Not great, but that's not really a problem for me as I have a master's in history and we supplement that area a lot with trips to museums and stuff like that.  For example, we took our daughters on a stage coach ride, which really makes you appreciate modern transportation. 


It depends on what you want.  Time4learning is a really good fit for us in every way.  The younger grades are taught by cartoon characters which my autistic dd really relates to better than people.  For her, this has been a great experience.  Traditional homeschooling, not so much.  We just had a terrible time getting across those math concepts.  I think the traditional way would not have worked for her in a brick and mortar school with a teacher either.


She's been really happy with time4learning and it's not a battle to get her to do schoolwork.  i don't know what will work for your family.  This program works well for us. 

Thanks a bunch! My kids are still very young (5, almost 4 and 2 1/2), so I don't know if they are ready for such programs but these are definitely worth keeping in mind. Grace, you really gave me a whole lot of great information, I really appreciate it! And thanks to you too Dawn, I will check out k12 and time4learning and all these other great resources. My 5 year old has PDD (which is like autism but also not like it), and I think he would really get a lot out of learning from cartoons more than from actual people too, so that is really helpful Grace.


I think it is very important for children to get to interact with other children their age, and I am also still looking fwd to my kids all being at school so I can do some things for myself for a change, so for those reasons and more I do still want my kids to go to the traditional school and such. However, and especially for my special needs child, having extra resources is never a bad thing and if there is a way for us to use these online schools to our advantage and to get ahead, I'll be very happy if it works. I would love my kids to skip a grade or two and get started early on college. The earlier the faster the better, if they can do it without burning out as you say Grace. The world is only getting to be a harder place to make it, problems are growing on local and global levels in so many profound ways, and we need to help our children to become more able and more competitive out there to help them make it in such a challenging and changing world, so, every bit helps! Thanks a lot you two!

We're going off on a tangent but anyway...


I always thought I would supplement what my kids did in trad. school but when my (now) 8 yo started I realized that for us that was unrealistic. By the time he got home from school and finished homework the last thing I (or he) wanted to do was ask him to do more school stuff. I started homeschooling him this year and it's been awesome. I don't do an online program like Grace, we piece together our lessons using different curricula, but it's worked for us. As for interacting with other kids, they do that all the time and more than they would in school (which isn't for socializing after-all) with a variety of ages. If you want your kids to get a head start on college though, lots of homeschoolers do community college classes in high school. Some end up with an associates degree by the time they are 18 and then move on to a 4 year. Just something to chew on. :)


I did not always have a high opinion of home educating but once I did some research I found that I held a lot of misconceptions about what it means to be a homeschooler. I don't talk about it often in "mixed" company, but I'm very happy with our choice so far.

Dawn, if I may ask, where and how do your kids interact with other kids if not in school? Karate lessons, music lessons? Chuck E Cheese? I'm very curious to know since it doesn't seem like there are a whole lot of options, but if I'm missing something I should know about I'd really like to take advantage of it! Thanks

My kids play in our neighborhood every day. We've lived here less than a year but my 8 yo has more friends, good friends, than after two years of school (K & first). My other son is 5, he plays with the same group of kids that range in age from 5 to 10. 


They also interact with other kids during extra-curriculars like you mentioned. We belong to a homeschool group that gets together now and then although that isn't a huge outlet for us but for many homeschoolers it can be. There's also groups like 4-H, girl scouts, boy scouts for those that are willing (I am not). My son meets other kids at the library for book club and BrikWars. Not all of these things produce friendships but they do provide the opportunity to interact with many different people of varying ages. 


It's not always easy of course, but most home schooling parents will go out of their way to help their kids connect with other people in a meaningful way. 





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