Category Archives: Schooling

How To Find A Non-Religious Homeschooling Curriculum

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I homeschool, and I do not go to church.

There.  I said it.  Or typed it, rather.

Not that there’s anything wrong with religion.  To each their own, and I have my own beliefs.

I homeschool, not for any religious reasons, but because my two oldest kids have learning disabilities that the public schools refused to address.

When I pulled them out of school, it was sort of a spur of the moment decision.  It was during Christmas vacation, or “Winter Vacation,” as they now call it, when I had a long discussion with some friends of ours that homeschooled.

I was tired of fighting with the school.  I was tired of the blame being placed on me.  I was tired of the meetings and pleading for accommodations, however small.  I was tired of the school staff and teachers giving me “that look.”

Yeah, you know what I’m talking about.

I had one teacher tell me, regarding my dyslexic daughter, “You just need to read to her more.”

Really?  Are you fucking kidding me?

So the day after Christmas vacation, I took my kids to school and signed the withdrawal forms.

Then I thought, Okay, now what?

I knew absolutely nothing about homeschooling curriculum at that point, so I got in my nerdish research mode and started researching.

What did I find on the first go around?

Religious curricula galore.

That’s fine for those that want to incorporate religion into their homeschooling studies.  I think instilling faith is a good thing.  It’s just not how I wanted to go about homeschooling my kids.

And that’s what homeschooling is mostly about, right?  Having a choice about how your kids are educated and what is included, or not included, in that education.

After five years of homeschooling my now 18-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter, I have been able to find and provide a non-religious curriculum for them, using these resources:

1.  The Critical Thinking Company

This company covers just about every subject you could ever think of, from pre-K up through adult learning.  Many of their products have won national awards and recognition.

“If we teach children everything we know, their knowledge is limited to ours. If we teach children to think, their knowledge is limitless.”– Michael Baker, President

Their products are great for all types of learning styles and are not based on rote memorization and drills.  In fact, some of their products look more like puzzle books than school books, making learning more interesting for your child.

I have mainly used their products as supplemental material, but their books can be used as main curricula.

They do offer package deals, if you order grade-specific sets.  If you want to pick-and-choose, like I did, the search options on their site make it easy to find what you’re looking for by series, grade level, and subject.

2.  Amazon

Yes, I’m serious.

Take full advantage of their Search and “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” feature on product pages.

For example, go to Amazon.com and type “writing with ease 1” in the search bar at the top of the page, then click “Go.”

Click on the first search result, which should be The Complete Writer: Level 1 Workbook for Writing with Ease (The Complete Writer) by Susan Wise Bauer.  I highly recommend this series, by the way.  My daughter is dyslexic, and this series was amazing at helping me help her with reading comprehension.

You really only need to purchase the workbook and teach from that alone.  I would read the excerpts aloud to her, and then ask her the questions, having her answer me verbally.  Eventually, I encorporated short written answers.

Anyway, on the product page, scroll down to the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” feature.

Now start researching.

Click on a book that looks promising, and open a new window.  Read the reviews and decide if it’s something you may want to use.

I set up some Amazon Wish Lists, so I could easily save these books and go back to them later.

Do this with different subjects and different books until you find which books you’d like to use.  I found most of my curriculum this way.

Most books you can buy used, or check them out at your local library.

3.  My old college and high school textbooks

Dig them out, if you still have them.

I use mine for reference or as supplemental material, like extra math problems or more illustrations for science-related topics.

4.  Your local Homeschooling Convention

Yes, there are non-religious products at these conventions.

I really encourage you to go to at least one convention if you are just starting out.

If it’s anything like ours, here in Arizona, plan in advance.  There are lots of speakers, so try to print out the schedule and plan your visit this way.

5.  Join some local Homeschooling Groups

Unfortunately, I have yet to find a homeschooling group that is not religion based.

I have joined a few groups over the years, and so far, every one of them has been super friendly.  So don’t be afraid to join anyway.

No, I don’t mention that I don’t go to church and that I don’t combine religion with our studies.  Actually, the subject rarely comes up.

However, I have been introduced to some great books through these other homeschooling families.  I love the Blackline Maps books and the “Whatever Happened to…” series by Richard Maybury, all of which were suggested by some fairly religious parents.  So never completely blow off looking into these groups.

So there you have it!  Some ideas and resources to help you get started.

Don’t fret, and don’t feel like you’re the odd ones in your typical homeschooling circles.  There are other non-religious homeschoolers out there.

We’re just difficult to find.  😉

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Part 4: Contribution To Community And Socialization

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5. Have you found time to contribute to your community or the greater good? If so, what are you doing?

Time?  Nope.  My kids, however, have time to volunteer at our local botanical garden – Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden.  Not only do they assist at the Garden, but they also help maintain local trails and parks.  Volunteering is a great way for homeschoolers to meet like-minded peers and offers extra educational opportunities, such as learning about local flora and fauna and how to sustain a vegetable garden.  They also learn the value of working together and improving their community.

Anything else you want to share?

What about socialization?  That’s always the big question regarding homeschooling.  You do have to be proactive because it is easy to become absorbed in your daily lessons and forget about your kids’ need for peer interaction.

Like I mentioned earlier, volunteering is a great way for kids to meet peers while contributing to their community.  There are also homeschooling groups for all ages that meet daily, weekly, and/ or monthly for P.E. and team sports, park days, art classes, music lessons, baseball games or theatre shows, movies, field trips, tutoring, and anything else you could think of.  Some activities are free and others are usually discounted.

Local zoos, science centers, arts centers, and botanical gardens may also offer activities, sometimes specifically for homeschoolers.  My oldest daughter takes Teen Pottery Wheel lessons at our local arts center.

Part 3: Favorite Child-Oriented Products

4. What are 1-3 of your favorite products (either personal or child-oriented)?

http://www.criticalthinking.com/index.jsp

I love the books from The Critical Thinking Company.  Their books cover all grade levels, including preschool, and numerous subjects and can be used as core curricula or to supplement.  Many of the books that focus on critical thinking skills are formatted as fun activities, such as riddles, puzzles, and brain teasers, so my kids don’t see it as “learning.”  My oldest daughter calls them her Fun Packets.  Several of their products have won national education awards and help with not only homeschooling but also with public school students needing that extra boost to achieve higher grades and test scores.

Writing With Ease by Susan Wise Bauer

My oldest daughter is dyslexic and, before I pulled her out of the public school system several years ago, her teacher told me that I just needed to “read to her more.”  Really?  I wanted to ask, “How much more do you want me to read to her when I’ve read to her every day since she was born?” but after years of dealing with this type of mindset, I realized it was pointless to argue.  Since working from Susan Wise Bauer’s Writing With Ease series, my daughter has improved in leaps and bounds with her reading comprehension and writing skills.  Although I am a little sad that she no longer needs me to read aloud to her anymore, I am extremely proud of her accomplishments.

The Sisters Grimm: Tales from the Hood by Michael Buckley

As a side note, my daughter used to hate reading – obviously.  The book series that changed her perception and got her to absolutely love reading was The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley.  These were the first books she read on her own and told me, “Mom!  When I read these books, I can actually see the pictures in my mind and understand what is going on!”

A History Of US by Joy Hakim

My third favorite product is Joy Hakim’s A History of US series.  When I was younger, I hated history – I wasn’t homeschooled.  So I did a lot of research trying to find a history book or series that wasn’t dry and boring.  In fact, that’s a main requirement when I research for books on any subject: writing style and presentation have to be pleasing and as enjoyable as possible.  I have two children with learning disabilities that make this necessary.  My son has inattentive type ADD and dysgraphia, so focus is an issue.  Both kids now love history and reading about it.  Hakim talks to the reader in her books and allows them to imagine living in the specific time periods.  There are also lots of pictures with interesting side-notes.  The chapters are short, too, for shorter attention spans and great for reading aloud.

Next Friday – Part 4: Contribution To Community And Socialization