As federal and state funding for public schools declines, more and more people are turning to homeschooling as an option. Once strictly the domain of fundamentalist Christians, homeschooling has seen an increase in popularity in many areas of the country. Pagan families have begun to join the movement as well, for a variety of reasons.
Why Pagan Homeschool?
Some Pagans choose to homeschool because they're unsatisfied with the curriculum in the local school district. In some cases, it may be that parents feel the public schools are too strongly influenced by Christianity. Depending on where you live, this may or may not be the case. For some Pagan homeschoolers, the decision is made based upon the idea of turning to a more earth-based education, and parents can include their Pagan values and beliefs as part of the daily academic lesson plans.
The concept of unschooling is one that's not unique to Pagan families, but it has found a definite niche in the homeschooling community. Unschooling is a less structured, less rigid approach to homeschooling, in which children are allowed to learn through life experience instead of by sitting down with a book and a worksheet. Unschooling tends to be very different not only in approach but in philosophy from traditional homeschooling.
The Myth of the Homeschooled Child
It's important to point out, if you're considering homeschooling, that the stereotype of the homeschooled child as some sort of unsocialized, nerdy weirdo is a thing of the past. There are so many options available for children to socialize now outside of a classroom setting, that most homeschooled students are able to take advantage of all kinds of extracurricular activities. In addition to meeting with other Pagan homeschooled students, you may want to encourage your child to participate in sports, academic clubs, music lessons, and community service projects. All of these will help your student become a well-rounded individual -- one who just happens to get his or her education at home, rather than in a public school.
How to Start Pagan Homeschooling
If you've decided to homeschool, you'll need to make sure you check with your state's Department of Education to find out what is required of you, because rules vary from one state to another. Some have fairly relaxed guidelines, in which a child takes a test a couple of times a year, and that's the end of it. In other states, homeschooling is more rigid, and lesson plans and assignments must be turned in to a vetted and approved agency or group.
Many homeschooling parents find that it helps them to join a homeschooling group or cooperative. This way, they can bounce ideas off likeminded parents, and share curriculum resources. If you have an active Pagan community where you live, ask around and see how many other Pagan parents are homeschooling. If you can't find any -- or you live in an area with no discernible Pagan population -- you may want to join a non-religious based homeschooling cooperative.
Also, be sure to take advantage of the numerous online resources aimed at Pagan homeschooling families. Some worth checking out are:
- The Pagan Moonbeams Newsletter features short lesson plans as well as celebrations and customs, an altar tools crossword puzzle, and a focus on community. Definitely worth checking out if you've got young ones at home, and don't know where to start their Pagan or Wiccan education!
- Oak Meadow Homeschool Page, while not Pagan specifically, has a curriculum that is definitely Pagan-friendly.
- Solitary Pagan Network [link broken as of 6/21/2011] has a good collection of resources and writings available to Pagan and Wiccan homeschooling families.
- Unitarian Universalist Homeschoolers. While not Pagan, the UU Church is extremely Pagan-friendly, and their homeschool curriculum would work well for people whose local school districts require them to have a parent organization as a homeschool sponsor.
- A to Z's HomeSchooling. Author Ann Zeise has a decent list of Pagan homeschooling support groups, divided by state and region.
If you're interested in more information about homeschooling your child, please be sure to visit Beverly Hernandez, our awesome About.com Guide to Homeschooling.