10 Tips for Secular Homeschooling
Deciding to homeschool is a big step. It is a big responsibility to oversee your child’s education. Deciding to secular homeschool can make the job seem even more challenging. However, there are some tried and true tips that can make the job of secular homeschooling much easier. Continue reading to learn more, and if you’re interested in joining the SEA Homeschooling community, join our Facebook group or become a member today!
1. Know why you are choosing a secular homeschool path
For most homeschoolers, the How (to do it) takes up most of their time. Before working on the “How”, it is a good idea to document the “Why.” Every secular homeschooler I have ever met had one thing in common. We care deeply about our children’s education. This is part of our why, but there is usually more to it. Writing a mission statement, a brief statement of your Why, will keep you grounded and on track.
A well-crafted Mission Statement acts as a compass. It sets boundaries and provides clarity and direction. It provides a guidepost when you feel scattered or overwhelmed. It can also be used in moments of indecision when choosing between options and paths. And the more innovative and eclectic you are, the more options and possibilities you will look at. Your Mission Statement can help you narrow these.
2. Get to know how your learner learns.
Children learn in different ways. A major benefit of homeschooling is the ability to develop a learner-centered education for your child. When you focus on how your child learns, you can connect them with the unique way their brain works. Getting to know how your child learns allows you to implement strategies for promoting learning paths where they are naturally skilled as well as provide scaffolding for those your child finds more challenging.
3. Find your state groups, local co-ops, and local playgroups.
In the US, homeschooling is regulated on the state level. The first thing to do when you decide to homeschool is to check the regulations for homeschooling set out by your state’s board of education. Each state has some differences in the procedure you need to go through for homeschooling. While you are at it, check to see if there is a statewide secular homeschool organization. That is a great place to get the information you need. Many of these organizations also have information about local secular homeschool co-ops and playgroups that can help you connect with homeschoolers in your area.
4. Find an online community.
Finding an online community is especially important for secular homeschoolers. When you decide to secular homeschool, it puts you in a smaller cohort of the homeschool community. The good news is that the secular homeschool community has a large online presence. There are free online secular homeschool conferences, secular homeschool magazines, and on Facebook, there is the SEA Homeschoolers Group with 77,000+ members. Our group functions like a huge teacher’s lounge where you can ask questions and get input and trusted advice from experienced homeschoolers.
5. Find secular homeschool curriculum (which can be harder than you might think!)
The most frustrating part of creating a secular homeschool is the amount of misinformation about whether resources are secular or not. Many publishers have misleading statements about what should be in secular materials. It is not just publishers, either. There are blogs, YouTube videos, Facebook groups, and websites that list materials as secular that are not. This is another reason you will want to find a trusted online secular homeschool community. The best place to get information is in a public forum with a reputation for being honest about what is and is not secular.
6. Customize to honor you and your learners.
A major benefit of homeschooling is that you can choose and customize resources. This can be done to reflect your student’s metacognitive needs. It is also increasingly being done to teach topics within subjects that parents and students feel are undertaught. For example, in the secular homeschool community, first-person African American, Indigenous, and LGBTQ+ voices are often added to history lessons. Customizing resources is also done to address the underteaching in traditional schools of core topics like science. Secular homeschool students generally get much more science learning than their traditional school peers.
For some secular homeschoolers, it can be scary to customize curriculum. As long as they are academically rich, alternatives aren’t just okay, they can often be better. As secular homeschooling has gained in popularity, potential bosses and colleges are coming to realize the benefits of including this cohort at work and on campuses.
7. Go into it with your eyes open about the workload.
Homeschooling is work. As obvious as that statement is, the amount of work that goes into planning and implementing it can catch new homeschoolers off guard. Toss in the work needed to ensure resources are secular, and it can feel overwhelming. If you begin to feel that way, take a step back and focus on why you are homeschooling. The rewards and benefits for your children and family are significant when there is a focus on meaningful, learner-centered education.
You will want to relax too. Enjoy this time with your child. Do the best you can do, and that is the best you can do. In addition, choose good secular homeschool resources that work for your learner and then relax. You are doing a great job!
8. Collect, compare, and share work samples.
Collecting work samples can relieve so much stress. These samples are the best way to track a student’s progress. The best time to collect work samples in every subject is at the beginning and end of each semester. It is also a good idea to collect monthly samples. Put these in a folder with a date on them. Compare work to monitor progress, and then share that work with your child so they can see their progress. You, as the person facilitating their learning, and your children, the learners, should feel proud of their progress.
Work samples can also help when troubleshooting. If progress is stagnant, it could be the materials being used. It could also be a cognitive or developmental issue. If this turns out to be the case, it can feel scary. However, for these issues, early intervention is important. The good news is that once you know what issues need accommodations, there are a plethora of resources available to help you help your learners.
If your child is flying through the material, it generally means their needs are not being met. Make sure that the choices meet your learner where they are at academically. Learners with high academic needs benefit from regular check-ins to ensure the materials are a good fit.
9. Evaluate with a growth mindset and a mastery approach.
In an age where multiple-choice tests and red pens to essays are the norm, is it any wonder that evaluating work has negative connotations? The issue is not the evaluation, however. It is how and why it is done in traditional school. Just remember, you have a secular homeschool. You can evaluate in the way it should be used.
The evidence that evaluations done right benefit learning is substantial. The phrase “benefit learning” is where energy should be focused. Evaluations give information about whether a student has mastered course material. If not, take the time to slow down and focus on those areas the learner needs more time with. Be thoughtful when giving feedback. Learning is a process and scaffolding through the thoughtful and kind feedback of a limited number of skills is the best way to mentor student progress.
10. Decide whether you want to leave it open for kids to go to traditional school.
Many homeschoolers want to leave it open for their children to go to traditional school. Homeschoolers that want this should definitely choose to secular homeschool. History and science materials used by secular homeschoolers align closer in topic with traditional school than non-secular homeschools do.
Whatever your reason for wanting to secular homeschool, you have got this. You really do. It starts with one step, and then gets easier as you go along. There is so much joy and pleasure to share learning with your child. Relax, get advice when you need it, and know that you are a part of a big, warm, and welcoming community!