Secular Homeschooling Resources

In the US, about 4-6% of children are homeschooled at one point in their education, and over 60% of homeschooling families adopt a bible-based curriculum. Still, that leaves a sizeable minority of home educators who pursue secular and non-Christian home school programs for their young students.

Some secular homeschoolers are religious, but want to provide their children with a well-rounded education. Other home educators do want to follow a faith based curriculum, just not the Christian faith. Yet the market for home instruction materials is dominated by Christian themed lesson plans and textbooks, making it a challenge for seculars homeschoolers to find rigorous and thorough lesson plans.

To that end, we have compiled a guide to finding secular education materials for grades K through 12. Starting from the legal requirements in each state, to lesson plans, textbooks, and college prep for homeschooled high school students. There are also links to free educational materials, secular and inclusive homeschooling blogs/forums, and resources for locating secular and inclusive homeschooling support groups.

Homeschooling Regulations by State

Whether parents instruct their children at home because of religious beliefs or for non-religious reasons, all homeschooling parents must follow state guidelines. Home education usually falls under compulsory attendence laws, and in most states parents must inform the school district of their intent to homeschool.

Standards vary greatly by state. For example, in Connecticut and Alaska, home schools are lightly regulated and student progress is unmonitored. In contrast, California and Alabama require that children be taught by vetted instructors, plus guardians must prove their children are receiving the same level education of education as public school students. In several states, public school districts cooperate with homeschooling families to provide the lesson plans and textbooks used in the local schools.

Alabama Hawai'i Massachusetts 1 New Mexico South Dakota
Alaska Idaho Michigan New York Tennessee
Arizona Illinois Minnesota North Carolina Texas
Arkansas Indiana Mississippi 2 North Dakota Utah
California Iowa Missouri Ohio Vermont
Colorado Kansas Montana Oklahoma Virginia
Connecticut Kentucky Nebraska Oregon Washington
Delaware Louisiana Nevada Pennsylvania West Virginia
Florida Maine New Hampshire Rhode Island Wisconsin
Georgia Maryland New Jersey South Carolina Wyoming
D.C. Puerto Rico 3 Virgin Islands 4 Guam  

(1) Parents must seek approval of local school board.
(2) Section 37-13-91
(3) No regulations
(4) Title 17, Chap 9, SubChap 1, Section 84

Non-Religious Home School Curricula K-12

So long as home educators give their children a strong foundation in math, science, social studies, reading, and writing, there is much freedom in how these subjects are taught and in what order. There is no set teaching philosophy parents must adhere to. Among the options for secular home school curricula are the Montessori method, great books programs, Calvert School, Waldorf, various forms of "unschooling," or the standard public school curriculum adapted for home use.

Most parents create their own rich curriculum by blending methods and combining materials from several sources. Here are some providers of self-paced lesson plans that can be used as foundations or supplements to your home education plan. The science resources below do not teach creationism or any bible-based biology and geology theories. Don't forget, you can save money on your home school curriculum by borrowing and trading lesson plans and books with other homeschooling parents.

Non-Religious Home School Curricula 9-12

Homeschooled high school students need an education that will help them prepare for the GED, college entrance exams, and university. Because a college prepartory curriculum must have both breadth and depth, and because some parents are out of their depth teaching a full high school curriculum, many parents use distance learning programs and online high schools to give their kids a full education at home. Many excellent online high schools are offered through universities.

Some homeschooled students will need to take the GED before attending college, while some can earn a diploma from distance learning academies and online high schools. For purposes of college admissions, there is no advantage in one or the other.

Finding Secular Textbooks

If you purchase a home school curriculum from an educational company, they will provide you with the textbooks or send you a book list. If you devise your own home learning plan, the challenge is finding rigorous and non-religious textbooks, especially for the sciences and younger grades.

One solution is to contact your local public school to ask what texts they use. The Texas Education Agency publishes a list of all textbooks used in grades K-12 in Texas public schools. Consult with other secular homeschooling families for textbook suggestions.

Most books can be purchased new or used from Amazon, Amsco, or Barnes and Noble.

Another option is to pool your resources with other homeschooling families, or join a homeschooling co-op so that you can obtain used textbooks.

Many homeschoolers are unaware that public school districts get large discounts on books because they buy in bulk. Families that home educate can leverage the same bargaining power by purchasing textbooks as a group. The Home School Buyers Co-op gets excellent rates on textbooks with the collective bargaining power of its 63,000+ members. Joining is free and allows you to save more than 25% on home school texts.

Finding Private Tutoring

If you live in a state that places restrictions on who can teach your child, or you can't teach some advanced subjects, you can hire one or more private tutors to fill in the gaps of homeschooling. Private tutors don't have to be licensed teachers, though many are, but they must have verifiable expertise. At minimum, they should have a college degree in the subject they teach, or have equivalent experience.

You can discover some, but not all private tutors in your area though online tutor directories and Craigslist. There are commercial tutoring businesses such as Kumon and Sylvan, or you can contact retired teachers who tutor part time.

To find a wider selection of tutors for your child, you should be pro-active and place advertisements yourself. Try posting flyers on campuses, public schools (with permission), grocery stores, and coffee shops. Ask other homeschooling parents for recommendations. If your children take private music lessons, the music teacher will have some good leads for other subjects. You can also place online advertisements: Some tutors will come to your home, others may prefer to meet in a public library.

Video Professor Courses

Home educators can make their middle school and high school curriculum more challenging by adding video professor courses. These lectures are great for accelerated students who want to learn new subjects in-depth. Engaging instructors present college-level material in a way that intelligent students can comprehend, plus it affords a way for parents to bond and learn with their children--many parents enjoy the courses as much as their kids do.

The Teaching Company offers video lectures on hundreds of thought-provoking topics such as "Cosmology: The History and Nature of Our Universe," "Understanding Linguistics: The Science of Language," "Enlightenment Invention of the Modern Self," and "Queen of the Sciences: A History of Mathematics." Besides university-level courses, they also have standard high school courses.

The MIT OpenCourseWare website has free lectures and courses in science, math, engineering, and business. Other universities programs that offer free video lectures are UC Berkeley Webcasts, Stanford Engineering Everywhere, and Utah State University OpenCourseWare.

Free Online Home School Resources

Many organizations provide free lesson materials for publich school teachers and homeshooling parents. Most notably, the US Federal Government has assebled a collection of thousands of free education resources from state and federal agencies, all neatly organized by subject area:

Federal Resources for Educational Excellence (FREE)

And below are links to a vast collection of free printable worksheets and mini-lessons for grades K-12. The last three links, Textbook Revolution, Project Gutenberg, and Google Books are sources of free ebooks and textbooks converted to free PDFs.

Home School Assessment Tests

Many homeschooling parents worry about having to administer assessment tests, such as the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) and Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) that many public school students take. Not all states require homeschooled students to take these tests, but for those that do, there are many sources of exams and standardized testing guides.

Luckily, neither homeschooled children nor public school kids have to take these tests every year; benchmark exams are usually given grades 3, 5, 8, and 11. Homeschooling parents have much latitude in choosing which tests to use and where to purchase them, here are several options: Home school co-ops can get group discounts.

GED Information

If you live in a state that does not permit home educators or distance learning schools to award diplomas, then your high schooler should prepare for the General Education Development Test. The GED is administered by the American Council on Education and is composed of sections: reading, writing, science, math, and social studies. Visit the official website of the GED Test for the most up-to-date information, or read a GED summary here.

Contrary to popular advertisments (mostly scams), the GED Test cannot be taken online--it can only be taken at a designated testing center. Additionally, some states have minimum age requirements for test takers. The best way to prepare for the exam is to learn the format and take sample tests with actual GED questions.

ACT, SAT, and PSAT Information

College-bound home school students will likely have to take either the ACT or SAT to get into an accredited university. To be eligible for the National Merit Scholarship, the should also take the PSAT, which is a "lite" version of the SAT. Lately, some colleges have opted out of standardized testing and no longer require applicants to submit ACT or SAT test scores. Nonetheless, it is in your child's best interest to take the exams if he or she been homeschooled through grade 12.

Without a school transcript to compare your child's grades to that of other students, college admissions committees might not judge your child's application fairly. National standardized tests such as the ACT and SAT make it easy for colleges to see how your child performs compared to his or her peers. The good news for parents is that most secular home school students score well above average on these tests.

One potential trouble source for parents and students is the rigid multiple-choice format of the SAT and ACT. If your child is not used to taking timed, multiple-choice tests, the format of the SAT and ACT can seem daunting and confusing. By taking practice tests and studying sample questions your college hopeful can quickly pick up the program and ace these tests. The key is for your child to carefully review the right and wrong answers so he or she understands the test makers' logic, understands the rationale behind the answers and can glean the pattern. Once you realize how predictable these tests are, it's easier to spot the right and wrong answers.

If your child struggles with the exams, you can check out test prep courses offered by Kaplan, Princeton Review, and other companies. There are also a multitude of test prep books with sample questions taken from real tests. Don't forget about SAT subject tests.

AP and CLEP Tests for College Credit

AP Exams and the CLEP testing program are popular among homeschoolers because the tests allow students to earn college credit by examination. The amount of credit awarded varies by exam and university. Many colleges accept AP and CLEP test scores in lieu of taking general education courses, so your child can get a head start on the first years of college.

Secular Home School Blogs, Forums, and Local Meetups

Secular homeschoolers support each other by blogging and participating on forums where they can share tips and provide honest reviews of educational resources. You can also connect with secular homeschooling families online to arrange local meetups and play dates, or join inclusive home school cooperatives.

Blogs and Forums: Finding and Forming Local Secular/Inclusive Home School Clubs

© Had2Know 2010

Table of Contents:

State by State Guidelines
Secular Home School Curricula
Secular Textbooks
Private Tutoring
Video Professor Courses
Free Online Educational Materials
Assessment Tests
GED Information
SAT & ACT Prep
AP and CLEP Tests
Secular Home School Groups