Friday, January 20, 2012

Stark Contrast

I wrote this several days ago and have been on the fence about posting it, mostly out of fear that people I know IRL might stumble across it and take offense to it.  But I decided - this is my blog, where I get to say what I want, and this is what's on my mind...

I'm not sure if I will even post this, but I am going to let myself write it anyway to organize and clarify my thoughts.  In the span of a week, I have attended two very different homeschool group meetings.  The first was a new one for me - a group of unschoolers.  To me, unschooling simply means child-led or child-directed learning, which is pretty much what we do - I've just been hesitant to label us as such yet.  So I was really looking forward to meeting other unschoolers and learning what exactly unschooling means to them.  A few of the moms I knew from Lego Club, but most of them I had not met before.  This group was fun, relaxed, passionate about their kids - and deeply respectful of them as individuals, and they seemed to be very open-minded - one even mentioned that she was not a Christian, which made me do a little happy dance inside my head.  I felt comfortable and I liked everyone right away.  There was so much energy - there were several different conversations going on the whole time, and I was constantly torn between which one to listen to/participate in.  I kind of felt like "A-ha!  Here is the group I've been looking for!"

Compare that to the meeting I went to last night.  This was the religious group I wrote about before.  I have been to several of their meetings and I am really having a hard time feeling comfortable there. 
The meetings last two hours, and the first half of this one was basically a sermon given by the leader of the group.  (The sermon portion has been getting progressively longer at each meeting I've attended.)  But before last night's even began, there was a conversation that made me cringe.  There was a discussion about a place that offers free mini-golf called "Putt-ing Through the Ages".  I wondered, "Hmm is this a Creationist thing?"  Fortunately the question was answered without me having to ask.  Another mom shared a warning to the others that she knew another homeschool family who went there and it is all based on *grimace* evolution, so make sure you prepare your kids ahead of time to take it with a grain of salt if you go.  Another mom mentioned that her kid laughs at evolutionists and says, "They're so silly, they don't know anything!" and the room was filled with sympathetic laughter... (yes, indoctrination is hilarious!) except for me, staring down at my hands and thinking, "Dear Heavenly Flying Spaghetti Monster, please give me the patience and restraint to keep my mouth shut, as nothing good or useful can come from me opening it."  So there's my problem.  I feel very uncomfortable, even deceptive, about keeping my differing beliefs a secret... but if they knew I was not only non-religious, but an out-and-out Evil Baby-Eating Atheist™(Disclaimer: that is just an expression, I have never eaten any babies nor do I have any desire to do so.  No babies were harmed in the writing of this post.) well, I could be wrong, but my instincts tell me they would not want their children to associate with my heathen spawn.  So is it a waste of time/energy on my part to try to get to know them and let my kids get to know theirs, if odds are that it may eventually end badly, at least in some cases?  The thing is, I DO like these women, and once we finally get around to the homeschooling discussion part, I really enjoy hearing about how each family does their own homeschool thing and I think I have a lot to learn from others' experience there.  As I've said before, we do share this great common goal of taking responsibility for raising and educating our children and that is a huge thing.  I'm just having a hard time reconciling my inner conflict between people I like, and ideas I very strongly don't like.  And I know this stuff really only matters to the parents and not the kids, but my biggest fear is that down the road, somehow, somewhere... my Atheism comes up, and my kids' buddies are suddenly no longer allowed to play with them.  Am I making too big a deal out of this?  Over-analyzing things and being overly sensitive?  I don't know.  It's just that I'm generally very open and upfront about my beliefs and I don't believe in lying or being deceptive, and that's exactly what I feel I have to do in this situation - and it's very uncomfortable for me.

To any religious readers out there, I am not trying to offend or upset you, I simply have different beliefs than you do.  So I want to know, do you really follow the teachings of your book and treat everyone with love and respect?  Do you associate with others who lack faith like I do?  Or is that a no-no for you?  Why or why not?

And, to my fellow secular readers out there:  Have you gotten involved with religious homeschool groups, and if so, how did that work out for you?


  1. The religious h-school group we attend does not have a sermon beginning; they don't even pray before the kids start playing.

    In the adults' visiting time (while the kids are engaged in board games/crafts/gym-stuff), the conversation invariably references the Bible, but it's like being among sports fans who discuss the latest score or rankings. Those who want to add comments can do so. Those who do not comment are not called out for it. We're like the anti-missionaries among the already-converted.

    I would like to find a secular group, too, but since I work every day (part-time), it's hard to get away midday and drive 30-40 minute one way for that option. My kids are playing indoor sports; my daughter wants to do a stage play this spring; my son is content with his laptop for "company."

    We see people in restaurants, the grocery store, the gym, grandparents every week.

    We use the h-school group for the few activities that apply to our needs and fit our schedule. I would not be able to attend one that included a sermon up front. I'd rather be a hermit than an outcast in a crowd.

  2. I really sympathize with you, Jen! It's hard to find that balance between being truthful about your beliefs and allowing your kids to have friends. I feel like most of the relationships I've formed with other moms, whether through HSing, soccer, or other activities, have left me with that same guarded feeling you're describing. I've not actually joined a religious HSing group because the ones I've looked into require me signing a statement of faith, which I can't/won't do.

    Jennifer, you're HSing group sounds a lot more progressive than the ones here. I don't think I'd have a problem joining one like that either!

  3. I understand your dilemma. I wish you could find a kick ass secular group filled with amazing, interesting, active people!

    You are NOT making it up. It happens here (St. Louis area) and many other places we have visited. It's like a tight-knit group of Christians who only accept or feel comfortable with other Christians. Really, it's THEIR recoil, not yours!

    Enjoying your HSing and your blogging!

    You can check my blog out at:

  4. Jennifer, it IS possible to have a secular group. It CAN be hard to get it started. You run the risk of outing yourself in the process. I got lucky. There was already one established here when I went looking for it.

    I'll say that I frequently have to bite my tongue around the Christian homeschool group in our area. I also have to restrain myself from wearing "objectionable" (read- gay rights/ evolutionary homeschooler) clothes to our local homeschool convention!


I like comments even more than chocolate... so leave me some!