March 9, 2009

Atheist Homeschooling

The Thorpdale Primary School was founded in 1889.Image via Wikipedia

Many Christian parents who homeschool their children do so for the wrong reasons, but I believe that there are good reasons for homeschooling. In fact, the frequency with which Christian proselytizing seems to occur in some public schools makes homeschooling seem like a viable option for atheist parents living in such districts. I see two primary barriers to effective homeschooling, and I would like to hear from atheist parents who have experience with homeschooling about how they have managed them.

I suppose the thing I would most worry about if I were an atheist parent considering homeschooling would be the issue of academic equivalency. As someone who teaches college, I have found that the homeschooled children who end up there are often seriously unprepared to succeed. Granted, this is generally because they have been victims of religious indoctrination instead of education. But I am not sure it is safe to conclude that atheist homeschooling is automatically superior to various Christian versions. One would hope that it would be more reality-based, but I don't know that we can take that for granted.

The second concern involves the social development of the homeschooled child. In many respects, the social aspects of the school experience as important as the academic ones. Christians who homeschool are probably going to have an easier time finding others homeschooling through their church than atheist parents can find through some alternative. How does the atheist parent attend to social development and prevent his or her child from being woefully unprepared to form positive peer relations?

While I do not see this as a major barrier, I also wonder if it could be argued that an atheist parent who homeschools might be doing his or her children a disservice by depriving them of the opportunity to learn how to navigate the challenges of living as an atheist among a largely religious populace. I am merely speculating here, but it seems like this might be one of those tasks that becomes more difficult if one has little early experience confronting it.

Are there any atheist parents out there who have, are, or are considering homeschooling? I'd really like to hear your thoughts.