My article yesterday stated that the majority of American homeschoolers are fundamentalist Christian. That, as I have now stated in the article, isn’t the case. Most of the replies I’ve received have been from homeschool parents who are quite insistent that they are not fundamentalists, and that they are teaching their kids evolution in their science lessons. To them, I apologize, and say thank you.
Here are a few statistics I found, courtesy of a 2003 survey by the National Center for Education Statistics:
- Approximately 1.1 million students were being homeschooled in the United States in the spring of 2003. I’ve seen estimates that the number has increased since the survey was taken to something like 2.1 million.
- 85% of homeschool parents surveyed cited concern about the environment of other schools as a reason for homeschooling their children. 31% cited this as the most important reason for choosing homeschool. This was by far the most-cited reason for homeschooling students.
- 72% claimed a desire to provide religious or moral instruction as a reason, with 30% citing it was their most important reason. This indicates that homeschooling in the U.S. has a strongly religious character, as I stated, but it in no way suggests that that character is fundamentalist Christian in nature. Unfortunately, “fundamentalist Christian” is how I characterized it in my article. I was wrong to do that, and I stand corrected.
The first comment I received to my previous article was from Dawn, a Christian mom who is homeschooling her young children, ages 6 and 9, in Nova Scotia. Check out her blog, Day by Day Discoveries, where she discusses her homeschooling experiences. “[My kids] learn evolution,” she wrote in her first comment to my article. “ID and creationism only come up as examples of pseudo-science.” She is one of the good guys. If only every homeschooling parent would follow Dawn’s lead.
Also linked on Dawn’s Day by Day blog is a CafePress storefront, where you can purchase your very own “Evolved Homeschooler” t-shirts and household items. None of you bastards have bought any of my CafePress stuff; the least you can do is throw a little change at somebody, for Christ’s sake. (And P.S.: Dawn mentions in the comment section below that the proceeds from sales of the Evolved Homeschooler gear go to St. Jude's Childrens Hospital. So now you pretty much have to buy something.)
I also got an email from Theresa, a homeschooling mom from Tampa, Florida, who rightly chastised me for falling for the “continued mischaracterization of home educators as narrow minded fundamentalists.” Theresa is one of a great number of progressive homeschoolers who are standing up to oppose groups like the MDHSA, and to let clueless shits like me know that the religious nuts don’t speak for the whole group.
Theresa also turned me on to the website of Homeschooling Unitarian Universalists, HUUmans on the Web. The introduction reads “This site is a vehicle for the sharing of ideas and will interest a wide range of people — from Unitarian Universalist families who may or may not be homeschooling to those who are interested in homeschooling but may or may not be UU. This is a place where open minds can consider alternatives to traditional public education.”
The HUU site has a number of excellent articles where their progressive, non-fundamentalist view of homeschooling is put forward. There’s a terrific piece entitled “The Home School Legal Defense Association DOES NOT Speak for US!” wherein the HUU vehemently distances itself from the conservative Christian HSLDA, which has publicly encourages homeschoolers to oppose gay rights, and characterized the homeschool community as a fundamentalist Christian monolith:
[W]e cannot let HSLDA’s gross misrepresentation of home educators as a single-minded group with a collective conservative agenda go unchallenged. In fact, HSLDA’s over-reaching positions in areas far outside of home education serve only to underscore this organization’s exploitation of home educators to further its private political agenda, and in the process undermine the crucial cause of homeschooling freedoms for a large and diverse population of home educators. . . . UU Homeschoolers support the rights of all people to equal protection under the law. We believe we ALL have the fundamental right to direct our own lives in our own ways.
Can I get an Amen?
There’s also this great article by Mary Schnake, “Reclaiming My Idealism: Why a Unitarian Universalist Homeschools for Religious Reasons,” where one Unitarian Universalist homeschooler writes about her journey away from the Christian church, and why she decided to homeschool her children.
These are religious people who homeschool their kids and, unlike the MDHSA and those represented by the HSLDA, teach them real, legitimate science, including evolutionary biology. The website’s list of suggested math and science sources includes a link to Becoming Human, a website devoted to telling the story of evolution and human origins. These, too, are the good guys.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not suddenly on the homeschool bandwagon here. I know our public education in the U.S. is in a terrible state, and I can certainly understand why some parents would rather teach their kids themselves than send them to school. I’d still be more comfortable with children being taught by teachers who have been to college and mastered their subjects, than well-meaning parents who are simply following a lesson plan. But in the day since I posted my article, I’ve heard from enough homeschooling parents who were adamant that the MDHSA did not speak for them, who told me that they are teaching their children real science and not creationism, that I felt obligated to acknowledge them, and correct myself.
I wish more homeschoolers were taught from sources like Becoming Human rather than Apologia, and I wish states would alter their standards to require real science education before granting diplomas. Until those things happen, though, I’m happy and a little relieved to know that there are people out there like Dawn, Theresa, and the HUU, teaching their children at home, the right way.