The only time I’ve ever felt shunned as a Jew was in my local homeschool group

I live in rural Southwest Wisconsin. In our community we are the only family that celebrates Hanukkah. We are the only family that doesn’t eat pork. People are generally respectful when they hear we are Jewish. And if they have ever met a Jew before, in their whole life, they are always sure to tell us.

It’s very rural and there is basically one homeschooling group. This week people announced that one group is splitting into two groups of Christians and non-Christians so Christians don’t have to deal with being restricted to talking only about school in the homeschool group. And, in addition to bickering about if there should be two homeschooling groups, people are bickering about if Mormons count as Christians.

I wrote this email to the group. But now I’m thinking it’s an email to every group of homeschool parents that is making their group about religion:

I would like to present the idea that we live in a very isolated area, where it’s very difficult to get opposing views to anything. There are very few black people here, very few people who did not grow up here. There is not a wide range of professions represented, there is not a wide range of lifestyles. Southwest Wisconsin, compared to the rest of the United States, is exceptionally homogenous. Surely this is not news to any of you.

So I am shocked that some of you are so unable to process multiple viewpoints that you cannot talk about school with people who might have other viewpoints about different topics. No one could have become a Christian had they not been willing to hear another viewpoint, right? That was the beginning of Christianity. When did it become Christian to be closed-minded? When did education become about closing off opposing viewpoints? How does a child learn to process opposing viewpoints when a parent will not permit that?

Whether or not this group divides will not affect how I homeschool. But it will affect how I feel in the community.

I have been to a meeting with this group where the main topic was how hard it is to be looked at as an outsider because you homeschool. Yet you have seemingly no ability to embrace other outsider views even though you want people to understand your outsider choice to homeschool.

I would like to feel like Southwest Wisconsin is inclusive, inviting, and empathetic. This decision is not about religion. You guys all already have plenty of religious groups that you belong to. Splitting these groups up is about saying who is an insider and who is not. It’s about making the community small and raising small-minded kids to take over the community.

Here’s the response I got. First, that people do not want to be in the second group. Everyone wants to be part of the main group. Then the group published a survey where you have to specify your religion. There were five different choices for Christian, then there was Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, and Atheist.

Forget that atheist isn’t a religion. Forget that there was no acknowledgement that other religions have factions, just like Christianity. What I really care about is that I am in a homeschool group where you have to declare your religious affiliation. For those of you who don’t know Jewish history, the way people have isolated and crushed a Jewish minority was by first making Jews self-identify for no apparent reason.

In the mainstream world, this would not be acceptable. In the world of public school, public companies, larger cities, people would be shamed into stopping this behavior before they sent out a mass email. But homeschooling is something that flourishes at the edges of society.  It’s in crevices and crannies of society that are often left undocumented in the larger picture.

I didn’t answer the poll. There’s a dirty side of homeschooling, and this is it. The best way to counteract this group is for me to have my own group, that is not based on hate and exclusion. I fell lucky to have this blog, because this will be my homeschool group. And I wonder, how many of you are also people who have to go online to get a support group because a local group is not available to you?

55 replies
  1. Shannon
    Shannon says:

    This email is so well said I want to stand up and applaud. I also live in a very remote area, and while I’m not Jewish, I’m not really religious in any sense, a fact that makes me feel somewhat on the fringes of other homeschoolers in my area. Great email!

  2. NT
    NT says:

    Well said.

    I’m only surprised that this seems like news to you. Surely you aware that one of the main reasons many people choose to homeschool is that they DO NOT WANT their children exposed to mainstream, pluralistic, and therefore to them by definition godless and evil points of view. They are not interested in differing perspectives and opinions. They want their kids to learn their version of the truth and nothing else. They are not interested in challenging or debating their own version of reality.

  3. redrock
    redrock says:

    it is likely that some of these parents homeschool exactly to avoid exposure of their children to opposing views. I have heard people who homeschool so their children are not exposed to the (Evil?) theory of evolution…

  4. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    I found this blog reading another blog written by an atheist homeschooling mom.

    We’re in SW Michigan — rural, homogenous, conservative. I was in the only local home-school group last year. It was religious. I didn’t say much. It was for my kids to see other kids, so they wouldn’t feel alone.

    At the end of the year, the parents discussed emphasizing prayers (not done at all while we were there) and doing co-op classes about Bible-based science, etc.

    I knew what I was in for. They made no secret of the Xtian beliefs of founding members and board members. I felt like a missionary –the heathen in the midst of believers.

    We joined the group to fit in, not to feel all the more left out. I couldn’t participate with good conscience anymore. We declined joining this year.

    Luckily, we were invited to join a friend’s group — 30 miles north, more urban, and definitely *not* religious.

    My kids are taking a few classes and joining athletic groups. It’s better to see fewer kids than be surrounded by kids we can’t talk to without starting controversy.

  5. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    People form groups based on their preferred conversational topics all the time. You probably wouldn’t want a homeschool group with anti-homeschoolers. Does that make you intolerant? Homeschoolers talk about homeschool. Christians talk about Christianity.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Well, hm. For a while, I sifted through a lot of Christian stuff at the meeting and in the email list in order to hear what they say about homeschooling. To me that’s okay, but it’s really different when they ask me to fill out a form to say what religion I am.

      Somewhere there is the line between tolerance and intolerance.


    • Daven
      Daven says:

      “Homeschoolers talk about homeschool. Christians talk about Christianity.”

      But this is supposed to be a homeschool group, mainly, it sounds like. And in a community where there aren’t a lot of homeschoolers to begin with, so it would seem to make sense to put aside other differences to focus on the purpose of the group: homeschooling.

      If they wanted to separate into “homeschoolers who knit” and “homeschoolers who do not knit,” would that make sense? If a group within the homeschoolers wanted to talk extensively about knitting, then it would make more sense to form a whole second group for knitters. But not to break apart the only homeschooling group in town into Knitters and Non-Knitters (and what about Those Who Crochet? Where do they belong?), when the focus is supposed to be on homeschooling.

      If the Christians want a Christian group, and their churches don’t allow them enough opportunity to discuss Jesus as a group, then maybe they should start a Christian group separate from the inclusive homeschool group.

      Alternatively, they could forget the religion pretense — with their silly trying-to-look-official (to whom?) “check your religion” forms — and just go ’round the room one day and point to the three people they don’t like and say, “You’re out. You’re out, You too. Goodbye; we don’t want to see you anymore.”

      Honestly, this sounds so grade-school cliquish. It’s sad.

  6. Monica
    Monica says:

    Well all five of us are in the same boat. Glad we all have each other here. Rural WV- much of a muchness. Try being a 1/2 Jewish 1/2 Catholic (but mad as hell at the CC) who chose as her teenage rebellion to become a Born Again Bible Thumping Baptist (yes, I am over that). I have a great perspective on religion, it was why I majored in it in college and why I abstain now. BOy I wish you all lived closer to me!!!!

  7. Alice Bachini-Smith
    Alice Bachini-Smith says:

    Well, it is about religion, unless religion is just a pretext for bigotry, right? Which is not the most tolerant interpretation of their motives.

    It’s annoying to feel excluded, and I’m not saying this isn’t about ignorance and bigotry, but homeschooling is private eduation not the state system, and part of that is having a choice to focus on your moral/ religious values in the way you choose, like people who send their kids to religious schools.

    Also, when there are enough people, homeschooling groups do tend to split. I live in Austin, Texas, which is liberal and a pretty big city, and the groups are separate here. So I feel it’s a homeschooling reality, and that wanting or expecting people who have conservative ideas about bringing up their kids in a maximally Christian setting to prioritise liberal values like tolerance and diversity over those ideas is probably unrealistic.

    Not that there’s no bigotry going on in this, and I happen to share your values, but sometimes the most tolerant thing to do is let people go and practice their different values in their own way, and decide you don’t need them anyway.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      This is exactly what I’d think in a big city. But I’m not sure it applies in an isolated, rural community. The idea of exclusion in a big city is everyone can find people who are like them. In a very small place, there is nowhere else to go. So exclusion feels different.

      Maybe, now that I’m thinking about it, this is a cultural gap for me or something. That I’m not sure how to function in a very small rural setting where, if you don’t go with the flow there is nothing else.


      • EMJ
        EMJ says:

        This reminds me very much, structurally, of some political arguments. In a big city it is okay if some druggist won’t sell you birth control pills, for instance, because you can always go to the store on the next block, and gradually the choice landscape will come to represent the wishes of the people. Viva capitalism! But in rural settings where the “competition” is sixty miles east, the best pure-capitalist answer is “move,” which is really not a practical thing to expect everyone to be able to do. Especially in farm country.

        Sometimes freedom means one thing in the city and another in the country. Place matters.

      • Alice Bachini-Smith
        Alice Bachini-Smith says:

        I wouldn’t give up on the non-Christian meetings. You don’t need a lot of kids for homeschoolers to get something good out of that, even with just a few families & different ages. It can make activities more interesting and just hanging out is good for kids.

        I get what you mean about exclusion feeling different in the country. I homeschooled in London and then in rural England, and felt like an outcast most of the time. To start with there was just us and a Christian family avoiding the evil sex teachings of school. Eventually there was a bigger group, but I always felt like an outcast among the neighbours etc. I tried to address this by volunteering at a local evening kids’ group, and we did make a couple of friends there, but in the end I couldn’t stand it anymore and left.

        If you can’t leave I think it’s really important to chill out and just appreciate the good bits about rural life. Kids get a lot out of nature etc, whether they know a bunch of people or hardly any, and we adults can have our social life online & travelling, as you say.

      • Mari B.
        Mari B. says:

        First, I wanted to say that I totally agree with your initial blog post. Secondly, I agree completely with your reply. I reside in the Deep South. I’m a Secular homeschooler who believes my spiritual beliefs are my own business. I reside in the ‘Heart of Dixie’/’Bible Belt’. It is different if you are in a large city where you have the opportunities to see out similar minded individuals. In a rural or predominately homogenous community, it is even harder to be the ‘outsider’.

  8. Leslie
    Leslie says:

    A public school principal who asked parents to specify their religion on a form would probably be fired. Freedom of religion means that the state must stay out of religion and cannot play favorites with one faith by advocating that people follow that one religious tradition. BTW, Mormonism is a Christian religion — otherwise why would they be worshipping Jesus?

    I noticed the home schooling people did not have deism on that questionnaire which is a belief in the natural order of God’s universe but not in an organized religion.

  9. Christine
    Christine says:

    Are you the only non-Christian in the group? Perhaps the group is using religion as an excuse to exclude you for other reasons.

    I home-schooled for several years. I could not have been any less surprised to hear that a homeschooling group is behaving like a high-school clique. Protecting their special snowflakes from diversity (godless heathens) and standards is part of the reason many people choose to homeschool.

  10. Jenn
    Jenn says:

    P –
    Hope this hasn’t worked you up too much. What a bummer. I am surprised you have not run into any of this before.

    I like that you mentioned that the home-schoolers were lamenting being “outsiders” and yet turned it right around and made you an outsider. I’m curious what they thought should be done to alleviate their awkward feelings as an outsider and who needed to do it?

    For some reason this is reminding me of Chik-fil-A, when people flocked there to supposedly celebrate free-speech, when that speech was so hurtful to gay people.

    A few years ago I realized I didn’t believe any religons teachings and basically am now an atheist. It has made me realize how Christianity is EVERYWHERE.

  11. Mary
    Mary says:

    One of the biggest concerns I have as a Christian homeschooler is making sure that my daughters are raised in a Christian household while being adequately exposed to all the other religions out there. I regularly wear a shirt that reads “Love thy neighbor- thy Christian, atheist, homeless, Jewish, gay, etc. neighbor.” Its essential to me to teach my children what I think is important, but at the same time acknowledge that we live in a vast world where everyone’s idea of what’s important varies. That’s another reason WHY I homeschool; I think the public schools perhaps offer more “diversity”, but that sure doesn’t mean it’s accepted, and I don’t want them to learn more ways to exclude people.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Thanks for this comment, Mary. Your views are actually what I expected from my local homeschooling group. I know that almost everyone is a conservative Christian. It just didn’t occur to me that they would only want their kids exposed to conservative Christians. It’s such an incredibly small world that way. I just didn’t believe that was really true because it’s so far from how I see the world. So, I guess it’s eye-opening to me that those very shelters homeschoolers I read about in magazines are actually living right beside me…


      • lhamo
        lhamo says:

        Why is it that the people who seem to be the most strongly convinced about the absolute truth of their belief system are the most afraid of/resistant to having meaningful contact with people who don’t share it? If you know you are right, why does it matter what other people think? And if you believe it is God’s will that everyone eventually join your faith, why can’t you just be confident in that and be a positive witness and wait for it to happen? Aaaaagh! I was a bible thumper at one point in my life so maybe I know the answers to these questions. There is doubt. And attraction to thoughts of a different way of living that isn’t so ruled by fear. And that is why they feel threatened by you.

  12. Robyn
    Robyn says:

    I’m not very surprised. Most homeschool groups in my area tend to be Christian based. We were raised Christian but don’t go to church and I don’t really want that as the basis of our homeschool studies so it can be hard to fit in.

    I read a lot of homeschool blogs but haven’t really found an online “network” yet.

  13. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    I am thankful every single day that our homeschooling group is very inclusive. We are not the same religions, colors, or even all fully homeschoolers, but none of that matters. We can talk about anything and everything, from homeschooling to religion to politics and everything mundane in between. Differing viewpoints is exactly what we wanted for ourselves and our children. And this is in Georgia. I think my biggest fear is that we may have to move one day. What would we do then??

  14. Carole
    Carole says:

    I think it is extremely common for homeschool parents to feel like they can’t find a group that fits them exactly. It’s part of the nature of homeschooling. Where I live there are at least a dozen different groups and not one of them is full of people just like me. Even in a larger city than my own I’m sure the dilemma still exists.

    Sometimes I wonder if that desire to “fit in” is what drives the groups to become so divisive and less accepting of different educational philosophies or religious viewpoints.

    On the other hand, it is your choice to live where you do, and many of the issues that you’re facing have to do with the way life goes in your neck of the woods (which stinks). Homeschoolers are not the only ones who tend towards prejudice and cliques.

    It is great that you find support online and through various friendships (critical, actually). It would be great if you could have it in person, too. Don’t give up on finding diversity and being able to make a few homeschooling friends. It’s challenging, but not impossible.

  15. Erin
    Erin says:

    By our liberal friends, we’re conservative; by our conservative friends, we’re considered godless. By our common sense and our gut-checks, we’re doing the right things for our kids. By definition, homeschoolers are anti-establishment/non-conformist in one way or another. As non-Christians living in a conservative Christian community, we’ve met lots of wonderful people and lots of not-so-wonderful people. Some judge as as heathens in need of conversion, some love us as they believe Christ implored them to; some think we’re stunting our children’s growth by homeschooling and some think we’re so brave to let our children “do” so many things. The conclusion we came to? Yes, yes, we are. As homeschoolers, we decided to embrace that idea that everthing and everyone presents an opportunity for them to learn about the world the way it really is. About bigots, about warm-hearted people, the diverse and the homogenized. Isn’t that how the world really is? We didn’t chose to homeschool for religious reasons, but we’ve certainly ended up having a lot of conversations about religion for a secular household. File it under embracing the good with the bad.

  16. min
    min says:

    What I love about your blog and I keep coming back is that you say what’s on mind. I whole-heartedly agree that the world of homeschooling is full of extremes. I’ve been to crunchy, holistic groups that make jokes of Christians and Christian groups where they consider anything outside of themselves evil. To me, they are more similar than different. It’s important to find your own tribe as well as expose your children to diverse religions and viewpoints. My friends are so different from one another in lifestyle, choices and faith, the only connection is that they are nice people.

  17. Lilly26
    Lilly26 says:

    Look, I am halachically not provably (long story) jewish, but I am a jewish-wannabee. Jews have been the most helpful to me for my entire life. I’ve been trying to convert (orthodox) for years and I totally believe in Judaism. Long story short for this blog: I totally believe in you and thank you for being strong.

  18. grrlpup
    grrlpup says:

    And if they have ever met a Jew before, in their whole life, they are always sure to tell us.

    Hee! That’s exactly my experience as a lesbian in rural-ish Oregon. I’ve never heard so many bright “My sister is a lesbian!” and “Oh, we had a nice lesbian couple staying here last summer!”s, ever.

    I’m sorry to hear about your experience…I hope that sending your message to the group will flush out others who feel the same way, so you can preserve those alliances in person.

  19. Tina H.
    Tina H. says:

    I’m sorry you’ve experienced that. But your telling of your situation has made me think about the dynamics among homeschoolers where I live – not all that far from you…in northeast Wisconsin. :^)

    When I went looking for a local group a few years ago (when my girls were toddlers), I found three options: a large group that had the word “Christian” in its title, and two smaller groups – one that is for Catholic folks and the other that bills itself as inclusive of everyone. As an evangelical Christian, I obviously couldn’t join the Catholic group; instead – and not surprisingly – I joined the Christian group. And a few years later, I joined the other group as well for a short time because I personally wanted to get to know as many area homeschoolers as I could. And I’ve learned some things in the process:
    1. The large group actually included the “inclusive” folks several years ago. However, when the majority of that group voted to add the word “Christian” to the group, a significant minority left, feeling excluded even though the regular functioning of the group did not change after the name change;
    2. On the other hand, some folks are in both groups. And, in fact, some Catholic folks are in all three groups – and they are generally welcome in all three;
    3. The Christian group doesn’t actually exclude anyone. All homeschoolers – though not virtual schoolers due to the legal definition in WI of those students as public school students – are welcome to join it and participate in anything. There is a statement of faith that is a general Christian declaration, but regular members are not required to agree with it. The only thing they have to agree to is using the principles of Matthew 18 when conflict resolution is needed – but that is a pretty non-sectarian, common sense procedure. It is true that leaders in the group (board members, etc.) need to be able to sign that they actually abide by the statement, but that’s the only limitation;
    4. Some in the “inclusive” group are still turned off by the mere existence of the Christian group and will not work together with them, despite the fact that the Christian group would be open to cooperative efforts. Of course, some are in both groups so they do activities with both – but there is not official cooperation because of the attitude of the inclusive group’s leaders;
    5. The other thing I noticed while belonging to the inclusive group was that they actively discouraged any talk of Christianity – while, in contrast, other religious ideas were encouraged. I found that very odd and uncomfortable since, for anyone who takes her faith seriously, it naturally permeates all of life, and it was hard to constantly have to watch my p’s and q’s.

    Overall, I find it helpful to have a variety of groups available to homeschoolers; hopefully, every homeschooler seeking community will find a good fit with at least one of them. I actually don’t know if the group I am still a part of has any Jewish members – because it’s not something we pay attention to (in fact, we’re careful not to ask on forms about denomination, etc.). There is not a large Jewish community here, but I would hope Jews would feel welcome. However, it’s disheartening that the various groups don’t work together.

  20. Lisa S.
    Lisa S. says:

    Your blog is so damn good! I admire the homeschool community for the sacrifices they make to educate their children. However, the flip side of homeschooling is that it allows insular groups to remain insular.

  21. Zellie
    Zellie says:

    Shortly after joining a small rural homeschool group there was encouragement to discuss our religious beliefs and share information, which I happily took part in. Soon after that, the group disbanded and reformed privately with a small Christian base, excluding even Christians who didn’t fit in. Religious issues didn’t come up in gatherings of this group primarily formed for group activities and field trips, but more fundamental groups can spot us “heathens” easily and don’t want to be around us.

    We joined a large city-based group whose focus was on child-led learning but inclusive of all styles. The way this was kept intact was to strictly exclude discussion, but not notification of events, of religion and politics. This kept the witches, Christians, lesbians, etc. all at peace.

  22. MoniqueWS
    MoniqueWS says:

    Unfortunately this kind of thing is only too common everywhere and it doesn’t have to be only about religious beliefs but can include such topics as politics, breast or bottle feeding, attachment parenting or spanking, recreating school at home to radical unschooling.


    We are better than the unthinking. We can make a choice and make it a good, enriching, wonderful one!

  23. Katie
    Katie says:

    That stinks. Move to South Florida, buy an exotic fruit tree farm and you will be able to pick any homeschool group you want. :). I can assure you there will be plenty of Jewish homeschoolers, but even the far right Christians wouldn’t dream of trying to pull anything like what you’re going through.

  24. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    “Then the group published a survey where you have to specify your religion.”

    Total BS.

    In no uncertain terms, my Dad would have responded – “What’s it to you?” and that’s probably how I would have responded. So I guess I get a lot of my straight talk from him.
    It’s unfortunate that it turned out as you describe. I’m going to say the people who orchestrated this religion split are not bad people. They want different things for their children. That’s their prerogative. It’s my guess many if not the vast majority of them have never really spent any significant amount of time in other areas of the country or the world. So I think your perspective is more wide-ranging. It is what it is. Well written and measured post. Thanks.

  25. Gwen Nicodemus
    Gwen Nicodemus says:

    Why don’t you start a homeschool group via Google Hangouts or Skype? It’s not quite the same, but they’d still make friends and there’d be less driving involved. I’m pretty sure my kids would go for it.

    I *could* start something like this, but my blog doesn’t have followers and that isn’t a priority for me. You have a large following.

    Also, it could be done for free or close to free. I mean, I can build a fancy website in an evening that does just about everything a website ever needs to do.

  26. Amy
    Amy says:

    1. If there are any families you really liked from the homeschool group, maybe just hang out with them, even if it’s not “homeschool group”, you’re still going to be sharing ideas and stuff with the people you found the most interesting anyway. And just let the rest of the issue go.


    2. Maybe it’s a good time to take your homeschool blog, “bigger, badder, and nationwide”, creating some type of more interactive community. It seems like you already have quite a few readers with a lot of good insight and experience with homeschooling. Maybe you just need a way to make some of this group writers (instead of always commenters only) – and bingo, you have a group.

    Sorry you felt left out.

  27. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    I teach writing and grammar in a co-op in Richmond. No “statements of faith” necessary to join us, even though many of us are Christians. I’m sorry you were excluded. Not what Jesus would do, as they say.

  28. Sheryl Roberts
    Sheryl Roberts says:

    Penelope, I am so sorry you have had this experience. I was hoping this would work out for you and the boys. Maybe give it some time to cool down and shake out and see what the new groups become. Human to human contact would be better for your family than cyber, I think, in the long run.

    I direct a homeschool coop here in Phnom Penh, Cambodia where my husband works in combatting sex-trafficking. We are Christians but know that living in a Buddhist country makes us outsiders and isolated by our beliefs. Not only that, most expat Christians here put their kids in Christian private schools which makes our homeschooling population quite sparse. The last thing I would want would to do would be to isolate other homeschoolers by making it about Religion.

    I think you were right when you said that Christians do have other places to share together in their common faith, but homeschool coops should be a time when their children can practice Christian love, dialogue with other worldviews and make friends along with learning together. Any child who ostracizes another child because of her religious beliefs needs a severe talking to…then again this is usually modeled behavior.

    I have been following your website for a couple of years and have a lot of respect for you. Come to Cambodia for a visit and we can share homeschooling woes of isolation together! :)


  29. Amy
    Amy says:

    I love the email you sent. It was so right on! It sounds like you were not getting much out of it anyway.
    Where we are (in CT), there are many groups to choose from and I am very lucky to have found an all inclusive unschool-ish group nearby. We don’t quite fit in to the Christian groups – I was raised by a Catholic dad and Protestant mom (back and forth every other Sunday) and my husband is Jewish (non-practicing).
    Anyway, you do need support on this path. It doesn’t matter where you find it, in my opinion, as long as you have it. It takes a lot of courage to live this lifestyle, especially if you lean in the unschooling direction. I find myself getting sucked in to worrying about college and SAT’s and Algebra on a regular basis lately.
    Often, if I can’t find someone in the real world to talk me down off the cliff, I come here. :)

  30. Di
    Di says:

    I’m a Christian. I wouldn’t have left you out.

    I understand homeschoolers wanting to teach their children their own beliefs. But they also need to teach them tolerance and awareness of those different than themselves. God commands us to “Go out into the world and proclaim the gospel.” How can we do that if we know nothing of the world except our own small portion?

  31. Suzanne
    Suzanne says:

    I live in a rural area. This does not surprise me in the least. It’s the down side of that clean, family values, country living. Most rural people are hard working, God fearing, decent people, but have no clue about anything outside of their narrow experience and don’t want to know. They don’t want to have to think too hard about the nuances of life. They don’t know what they don’t know, and don’t want to know.

    I’ve lived out in the country for 25 years, and I think it’s getting worse.

  32. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    Atheist homeschooler from Ohio here. I can relate to your struggles with these types of groups. I have been homeschooling for about a year and a half, and in the beginning, I joined the first (and closest) homeschool group I found. It was a Christian group but didn’t require members to be Christian, which seemed like a good sign. As the year wore on though, the first hour of the 2-hour monthly meeting basically became a sermon. After having to bite my tongue multiple times during conversations about “those dummies who believe in evolution” I finally decided the group wasn’t for me. I know that many of the people in that group would want nothing to do with me if they knew of my lack of religious belief, and it felt like I was being deceitful in some way by just being there. Fortunately I have recently found a wonderful inclusive group that we are really enjoying. But it did take a bit of hunting to find the right group.

  33. Virginia
    Virginia says:

    Wow I feel very sad you experienced any ostracism because you are a Jew and especially by Christians. I am an Aussie Christian, and I have to say I have spent the last 5 years of my faith journey teaching myself and my kids the Torah and The Jewish Feasts and to see the revelation unfold in front of our eyes of why God chose Israel as a Chosen nation to keep the Law, and to observe His commandments and statutes.
    It allows the bible to come alive for us and increases more revelation knowledge.
    And mind you there are so many preachers teaching the Hebrew meanings behind the context of what is written in the Bible, not just I but many, many Christians pray for Israel as is commanded to do so and to bless Israel also.
    Also many Christians I know of, are even becoming Kosher. I personally don’t eat pig or any scavenger animals, not for any legalistic reasons, but because I know and have studied why God calls these animals unclean. Yes I hear the Christians screaming out at me, but we are no longer under the law and all things are now permissable. And yes I would eat it if it was to cause my brother to stumble or to offend him as also scripture says. (Although I challenge anyone to do a study on pigs or scavenger animals and see if they still want to eat them again lol!).

    We (Christians) don’t have to do anything to obtain salvation other than to accept Jesus (Yeshuah Meshiah) as our Lord and Saviour fullstop!

    Recently a Christian Homeschool friend of mine and her husband built a sukkah for Sukkot and we got to experience that. And both our families with our kids, did as much as we could to imitate what the Jews would have done for Sukkot. Why? Because we again wanted our children to understand and also experience for ourselves what The Feast of Tabernacles means and where and why in the scriptures was this actual event and reading.
    My family and I have also done an observance teaching on Sabbath (Shabbat Shalom) as well, (as best we could) and my kids giggled and loved every aspect of it, from the blessings to the lighting of the candles (we didn’t have a menorah), and were disappointed that we only did it to understand why God commanded a Sabbath rest. So now we are always aware at Sunset on a Friday til Saturday evening that we take the time to rest and bask in God’s blessings and enter into His rest for us all, and my daughter loves to light a candle and still do so much of what we learnt….
    Everything we have done experientially helps us shed more and more light on our daily Bible readings. Not that we have to do anything as I pointed out earlier, as we believe in Yeshuah Meshiah as our Saviour and you would have to know that that is a Christians belief system. But we also observe the feasts to have more of an understanding for Israel.

    Anyway I felt to post a reply to you as I and my Aussie girlfriends would have accepted your knowledge of all things Jewish whereby we could have learnt from you.
    Actually my kids and I are a little jealous we don’t get to have the fun that you Jews seem to have in following the Torah truths if truth be known lol!.
    I love the way it brings families together, and I love that you all really get God! And by the way -we have observed just how blessed the Jews are!!!!

    But sadly you are right – there is a dirty side to Homeschooling and the varying groups/ or any groups for that matter, that shut others out. I hate that is happening at all, whether you are a Christian or not. I also have been shunned for being a Christian.

    One of the biggest misconceptions from a non-believer is that a Christian is a Catholic. I am not a Catholic I am a Christian (and I think this is where alot of anger arises as we are all judged as Catholics.( I am not going to get into this discussion though) I can emphatically say that being a Catholic does not make you a Christian, as I was born into a Catholic family.
    I am very contemporary in my faith and truly would embrace you whether you did or did not listen to me and my beliefs. And we could all learn from each other anyway! I think conversation is healthy as long as it doesn’t lead to discord and I find any form of legalism is constricting whether you have a belief system or not. I hate a harsh or arrogant spirit in anyone and will back away as it is just not conducive to anyone. Shalom and thanks for sharing.

  34. Mel
    Mel says:

    I know you are saying the pool of homeschoolers is small in your area, but there must be others who feel the same way you do, even Christians. Start a secular group and make it FUN! Do all sorts of things that the other group will be jealous of! It may start out slow and you may only have a handful of families, but it will grow over time. Built it and they will come.
    Recently I was in the company of fellow homeschoolers in my secular group (some of which, who were there at that moment, were atheists, Unitarians, Catholics, Wiccan…) and I slipped in to a conversation that probably no on there even knows MY religious beliefs. I saw that moment on the faces of those around me. Yup, they realized, we have no idea what you believe. That’s because it is 100% unimportant in our group. I’ve never had cause to discuss it because it doesn’t matter.
    Build it, they will come.

  35. Mel
    Mel says:

    Oops, I wanted to make it clear that I COULD talk about my religious beliefs in my secular group. I would feel 100% supported. It’s just never come up.

  36. leftbrainfemale
    leftbrainfemale says:

    Hi Pen –

    Excellent post. And your experience made me go back to my own homeschool group experiences. I never really put it together – because we are Christian – but your reasoning probably has a lot to do with why I didn’t feel comfortable with the group either. I was always taught that our actions as Christians are more important than words – in fact, we rarely tell anyone we are “Christian” as to say you are Christian, by it’s very meaning, says you are “Christ-like”. It’s a pretty tall order. I think, more than anything else, we were unconventional and didn’t fit in. Christianity should not be worn as a “badge” to proudly show the world, but more as an undergarment that keeps the ugly parts of us – the lumps and bumps and prejudices – under control, so that we might present a lovely attitude to others that would be inclusive rather than exclusive.

  37. Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot
    Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot says:

    Penelope, that’s a real shame. What I’ve noticed is that many groups are run by bossy people who want everyone else to follow their rules. So if someone joins them who rocks the boat in anyway they will do whatever they can to get rid of them. As has happened with you the good people drop out because of that.

    I hope you can find a few cool families to hang out with because although I feel lucky to find like-minded people to hang out with online since there are few in my local areas, face to face interactions are important. It’s also important to learn to get on with or put up with annoying people although some people are best avoided altogether.

    I love the email you wrote to them and feel so sorry for those families and their children whose views are so narrow and world so limited.

  38. Brandon
    Brandon says:

    I’m sorry this has happened to you, or anyone else in your community and only confirms to me the stereotype of Christians is true.

    I was raised Christian, I used to go to church every Wednesday and Sunday, and all I can say is I’ve never had anyone from any other religion to their beliefs in my face.
    I’ll admit I am a bit ignorant when it comes to the Jewish religion, but I don’t k ow if they even have a hell, and that’s just becaus I’ve never had one tell me that I’m going to burn alive for eternity, in a bottomless pit because I don’t believe In the same thing as them.

    When people ask me about my religion I tell them I’m old school Christian, meaning the type of Christian that would’ve lived when Jesus did.
    I believe in kindness and compassion. I believe that there is still good in the world and just because someone doesn’t have the same beliefs as me it doesn’t make them evil or ignorant.
    Christianity has sadly fallen to a low level. A level that involves so much ignorance and hate and it sickens me to no end.

    “I like your Christ, but not his people because they are so unlike Christ.”

    Which brings me to this point: don’t hate a religion for its people, even if they are self righteous bigots.

  39. Samantha
    Samantha says:

    We have one local homeschooling group and while there are a number of very valid reasons that we haven’t joined in the one that is my biggest is that they are exclusively a Christian group. I am hesitant to be a part of a group that excludes other homeschoolers because of their religion. I think that it’s ridiculous. I am a Christian and could indeed join the group signing the declaration of faith if I wanted to. But I don’t want my children growing up thinking that we should only accept those who believe the same way we do. I mean that would mean they couldn’t love their very own grandparents and well that’s just not acceptable to me. I do turn to online groups a lot for homeschooling community and I do have a few IRL friends who homeschool and that I feel comfortable bouncing things off of and asking advice of so I’m super fortunate in that.

  40. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    This post hit home with me. We were a part of a large, liberal homeschooling group for a year while we lived outside of Chapel Hill, NC. It was amazing. Then, because of income issues for our family, we moved back to the Gulf Coast in NWFL.

    We began to get involved in the homeschooling community again here. Most of the people in our town homeschool specifically for religious reasons. The group we were involved in started out as being open to all belief systems, but I always felt uncomfortable as conversations at the park would turn to people’s religious and political beliefs. I would walk away from the conversations, but no one ever took notice of the fact that I was uncomfortable with the direction the group was headed. We are pretty eclectic in our belief system and we are very spiritual but feel very awkward when around extremely conservative religious groups.

    I spoke to two of my friends in the group, who are both Christian but very open-minded. One had put her children in public school and was not involved anymore. Both understood my issues but there was not a solution, as the people who were really involved in the group all had similar beliefs. As more and more very conservative families joined, I had to leave the group, even though I was one of the founders. One too many conversations centered around boycotting companies that supported gay rights. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

    I attempted to start another group, but it wasn’t very involved and our lives are quite hectic because of my husband’s career and travel that we tend to do. I just let it go. Our children miss deep connections with other homeschoolers that they had in North Carolina, but they are around a number of others homeschooled kids at their ballet school, which is about 30 minutes from our town. Right now, while we are living here, that is the best that we can do. Our kids are happy at home, learning with us and it has brought us even closer. I am grateful that we can homeschool and that’s all that matters right now.

    Thank you for all that you do, your insights and your honesty. Just sitting here reading your posts makes me feel connected.

  41. Elizabeth McKeeman
    Elizabeth McKeeman says:

    If you took out “Wisconsin” and put in Minnesota your article would 100% apply to where I live. The exclusionary views are horrifying, yet people complain that the town is dying and that new people need to be brought in.

    For me, I am excluded because I am not the “right” kind of Christian. There is a local secular group but they too exclude me but it’s because I’m Christian.

    So, I here with my heart what you’re saying. I know how hard it is to work hard to find kids for your kids to play with. It’s been an almost full time job for me, and none of it has worked.

  42. Amy
    Amy says:

    I am considering homeschooling next year and the Christian dominance is one of my biggest concerns. We would be doing secular homeschool and are non-Christian. Thankfully I live in the Des Moines area which is surely more liberal than your home, but I still think the homeschooling groups are Christian based. I am definitely worried, because I think we will need to be part of a group for social reasons, but I won’t be part of a Christian group, regardless of whether on not they would take me.

  43. TheKnowerseeker
    TheKnowerseeker says:

    This blog entry is about one and a half years old now, so I’m not going to reply to any of the comments here, but I do feel the need to comment on the original entry:

    First, the arguments you are expressing are those I hear from atheists, not a theist as you claim to be (a Jew, in particular). Second, I, myself, am a theist — particularly a Christian — and a big reason that my wife and I homeschool our children is precisely because we do not want them *brainwashed* and *indoctrinated* by atheism in the forms of the *theory* of evolution taught as if scientific *law* — the same with the “Big Bang” theory (which is slightly less biased against, and threatening to, Christianity) — and now the new policy of teaching kids that gay is OK, and we are to all embrace homosexuality!

    This is all brainwashing and indoctrination: You need to understand that *anything* taught to young kids as fact is indoctrination, because they don’t have any preexisting beliefs about the world to compare the new “information” or propaganda to in order to think critically about it before just accepting it carte blanche. Thus, it makes sense that a theist would want their small children “indoctrinated” to their own particular theistic worldview first, before they are exposed to any other propaganda, just as an atheist would want to teach their small children their own particular atheistic worldview (Objectivism? Secular Humanism? etc.) before they are inundated by a theist or an atheist adhering to a different philosophy.

    Where the consideration of intellectual honesty belongs is after children have grown a little (maybe at 10 years old or so — during the preteen period), when the homeschooling parent-teacher can begin to introduce the child to other/opposing worldviews to the one the child was raised on — along with *counterarguments* to those worldviews — so that the child starting their journey to adulthood can understand all points of view but also understand why his or her parents’ (religious) philosophy is “better” than those others out there. Then, as the child becomes a teen, and further on into young adulthood, the young individual can mull these things over and hear counter-worldviews from proponents of them for the first time — possibly in college, for instance — but having been “vaccinated” against such propaganda with the aforementioned counterarguments — such that the counterarguments have to be nullified first in the mind (and heart) of the young individual before s/he will embrace a “bad” philosophy.

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