This post may contain affiliate links which means I receive a small commission at no cost to you when you make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Are you looking for the very best non religious homeschool curriculum? The options available today for secular curriculum are so much better and more prevalent than they were when I first started 10 years ago. In this post, I’ll go over a few of my favorite options for those of you looking for the best secular homeschool curriculum. First, let’s define secular homeschool and why you may want to choose it.
What does Secular Homeschool Mean?
In short, secular homeschool curriculum means the materials will be non religious. Alternatively, religious homeschools will teach faith and/or religion right along with the other subjects. Although you would think secular is pretty easily defined there can be some drama and controversy over what exactly this looks like in home school. The best secular homeschool curriculum will not teach any religion as fact. Secular curricula will often not teach religion at all other than as an influence in our history.
How can secular be controversial?
In the homeschool world, there is a spectrum of secular materials. Some brand themselves as neutral but might still have a slight bias towards Christian history. Some present as secular but treat parts of religion as historical fact. Other materials or secular curriculum will be “truly” secular in that they do not give any value to one religious belief over another. They do not treat religious beliefs as a historical or cultural fact. When selecting your curriculum, pay attention to this if you have a strong opinion about it.
Can I use secular curriculum even if I’m religious?
Yes, you can use secular curriculum even if you are religious yourself. Many families of faith choose this option. This way they can teach their personal religious beliefs without being tied to materials that don’t fit them. Just a heads up, though, most Facebook groups for secular homeschoolers will not allow any discussion of adding in these religious materials so don’t be surprised or offended by that.
What are the best secular homeschool curriculum packages?
The most popular all-in-one secular programs are Torchlight, Blossom and Root, Build Your Library, Oak Meadow and Wildwood. Although these claim to be all-in-ones or open-and-go some of them will require a subject supplementation and I will mention that in each section. These are brief overviews but I will go into further detail on each curriculum in future posts. None of these homeschooling programs mentioned here are free but they are affordable.
Which homeschool curriculum has everything laid out for the parent?
The all-in-one packages will have most everything laid out for the parent/teacher. These are sometimes referred to as open-and-go curriculum. Generally these will have a weekly grid or calendar and then individual pages for each day of the week. Some programs come with 5-day or 4-day options so you can really make it fit your own schedule. Some will also provide supplementation suggestions such as movies or additional books for voracious readers.
Torchlight Curriculum Review
Torchlight Curriculum is one of the most well-known and often-used secular homeschool curriculum. It comes as a PDF download and the costs for each level are currently in the $40-50 range.
I have personally used Torchlight homeschool curriculum and will go more into depth regarding it in a later post. For this brief synopsis, however, I describe it this way:
The books are BEAUTIFUL and modern. You should read them all even if you don’t use the curriculum. Many homeschoolers will supplement their curriculum with booklists from another program. Torchlight is a popular choice for the booklist alone.
Your child will easily make connections between the history and literature. They tend to be closely linked.
There are many hands-on projects to increase engagement and understanding. The projects usually used items we had on hand.
Drawbacks of Torchlight Curriculum
The projects and readings are parent-intensive. At the time I had 4 kids in 4 different levels and did not feel I had the time to adequately use the curriculum. It is very rich!
Having new books is awesome, but, because they are newer some of them were quite expensive and my library didn’t have them yet. The curriculum also tends to use book series. This can build connection, but if you kid doesn’t happen to enjoy the series there will be many books throughout the year that you will need to substitute.
I personally didn’t like the layout of the weekly grid and lesson plans. I had been using Build Your Library for years before this so it was probably just a matter of what I was already used to.
Basics of Torchlight Homeschool Curriculum
The Torchlight website explains their approach: “Torchlight takes a distinctively secular Socratic-inspired approach with Humanist underpinnings. Torchlight supports the Golden Rule, kindness, exploration, questioning, and scientific thinking. A worldly approach full of logic, equality, and empathy. Equality is one of the tenets we venture to exhibit throughout this curriculum.”
At the time of this writing it offers levels for pre-K through 5. (Keep in mind homeschool does not necessarily correspond to grade level in public schooling. A variety of ages could use each level and you can also combine multiple kids into the same level.
Subjects covered include: Literature, History & Social Studies, Science, Art, and Poetry.
You will need to add in your own Math. (recommendations coming in a future post)
On the website you can access the book lists for each level. In general, the books are up to date, modern and from a diverse set of authors. The booklist is directly linked to both Amazon and Bookshop. Because these are modern books you will be able to get a lot of them at your library if you are on a tight budget. As stated above, however, some are so new your library won’t have them – so plan ahead!
Build Your Library Review
Build Your Library is an often-recommended secular homeschool curriculum. I have been using it for years now. In a later post I’ll give you all the details! According to their website the curriculum is described as: A Charlotte Mason inspired homeschool curriculum, but with a 21st-century twist…
You will receive a PDF download when you purchase Build Your Library. Each level varies somewhat in price but the general range is $30-50. At the time of this writing this gives you lifetime access – meaning if the level gets updated you get access to the update as well!
The main reason I settled on Build Your Library is because it gave me a great deal of flexibility. There was enough structure that I knew we had accomplished something that day but not so much structure that I felt micromanaged.
In the years since I’ve started using it, Build Your Library has updated the majority of the levels and they get better each time. Emily, the author, is active on YouTube and Instagram and hosts question and answer sessions. She is very responsive on email.
Build Your Library offers levels 0-12. Subjects include Literature, Poetry, Social Studies & History, Art, and Science. Because this is a Charlotte Mason-inspired curriculum, there is a heavy emphasis on narration, copywork and dictation. You will need to add in your own Math.
Similar to Torchlight, Build Your Library uses quality literature to make connections between the history and other subjects. With each update, Emily has replaced books written ABOUT other populations with books written BY authors from those populations.
In the previous editions, levels 1-4 used Story of the World for the history spines. There are portions of Story of the World which are not 100% secular. With the most recent updates Emily has replaced those books with 100% secular selections.
Like most homeschool curriculum, the levels can be used for a range of ages and do not necessarily correlate with grade levels of public school.
Due to the Charlotte Mason twist you might feel the need to add in more language arts or writing instruction. The process of copywork, narration and dictation WORKS, but it is hard to trust the process.
If You’re a Science Nerd . . .
Build Your Library is literature-rich and you can quickly appreciate how much care Emily puts into each book selection. If you, like me, are a science nerd, you might feel the curriculum lacks in this area. Most of the science is reading and not a lot of hands-on projects. I know this is something that was supposed to improve with the updates but I do usually end up supplementing for this subject. Keep reading to find my favorite science recommendations.
Blossom And Root Review
Blossom and Root is a “Creative, flexible, hands-on curriculum for secular homeschooling families with a focus on nature, literature, STEM, and art.”
Although I have not used this curriculum in its entirety it is always a popular suggestion in online forums and homeschool groups. Currently it includes levels 1-4 with a level 5 in the works. The website states they do intend to add higher levels but there is no definite timeline.
The kindergarten level is a very gentle, play-based experience. I kind of want to go through it just for fun! According to their website, grades 1 and up include language arts (reading, narration, journal prompts, creativity, geography, and literature); science, nature study, and art. You will need to find your own programs for math, spelling, handwriting instruction and history.
Similar to the other curricula listed here you will receive PDF downloads. Blossom and Root has bundles available or you can buy mini-units or science on its own. The PDF bundles range in price from $130-150.
If you have used Blossom & Root please leave your feedback in the comments and let me know what you think.
Oak Meadow Review
Oak Meadow homeschool curriculum is a K-12th program. It has a Waldorf influence but is not considered a Waldorf curriculum in and of itself. Oak Meadow has many options including taking the four core subjects individually, adding crafts/projects-based lessons, and even enrolling in an online school.
Because there are so many options with using Oak Meadow it is a little difficult to give a price range. Looking at their website, the curriculum bundles can be around $600 and include the four core subjects: language arts, history, math and social studies.
Enrolling in the online option seems to vary by grade level and is in the $2,000-$4,000 range. This includes all the materials you need.
There are in-depth curriculum samples on the website so it will be easy to see the scope and sequence and what each level covers. You don’t even have to give your email address!
Overall it seems Oak Meadow is a rigorous and experiential secular homeschool curriculum with many options for you to tailor your child’s education.
Have you used Oak Meadow? What would you add to the pros and cons of this non-religious curriculum?
Wildwood Homeschool Curriculum is a Charlotte Mason education with a “modern-day twist”. The levels of education are separated in to Forms which cover a range of ages. Currently they are writing Form 3 which would cover ages 12-14.
Charlotte Mason’s philosophy focused on nature study, music and art appreciation, literature and history.
The history focuses on your own country for the first several years. If you are looking for more of a global approach this will probably not be the curriculum for you. On the website you can access the booklists and suggested activities for each form and level.
This curriculum does not have a set schedule. It is up to you to make your way through the books and subjects on your own. In the resources there is a link to another blogger’s site with a sample schedule. However this other blog is NOT secular.
Because true Charlotte Mason programs tend to use older books in the public domain there may be some books that have more of a religious undertone. The Wildwood website does address this but it is something to be aware of if you are wanting to be 100% secular.
Because this curriculum is still being developed there is not a ton of structure or guidance. The authors are accessible and also have a social media presence and even a podcast. I expect this will continue to get better as time goes on. However, if you are a new homeschooler or looking for more of an open-and-go approach this might be challenging for you.
What about standalone subjects?
I personally prefer using all-in-one curriculum because the guesswork and connections are done for me. Some years I have used the open-and-go as more of an outline and built it out but I would not have had the skills or confidence to do that initially.
There might also be situations where you are looking for standalone subjects – especially language arts, science and math. I will address each of these topics in future posts but for now I will talk about science.
Secular Science Curriculum vs. Neutral
Secular science homeschool curriculum, in particular, can be hard to find and this is where much of the “is-it-truly-secular” conversations can happen. Programs that treat religious creation stories as fact are not secular. Other programs may give veracity to the theory of intelligent design – this is considered neutral but NOT secular. A secular homeschool science curriculum will teach according to current scientific theories and beliefs including evolution and origination.
There are several homeschool programs online or activities you can find by searching Pinterest. However, it can be a challenge to find a truly open-and-go science curriculum. In the younger years you might find it easiest to buy one of the above programs and then use only the science from it. (In elementary levels, Blossom and Root science is highly recommended.)
What is the best secular science homeschool currciulum?
My personal choice for secular science is Real Science Odyssey from Pandia Press. These books come in several levels and topics beginning with Life Science in the early elementary grades. Each lesson starts with a page or two introducing the material and then 2 or 3 labs for hands-on engagement. The labs use items that you most likely already have in your kitchen. For those items that might be a little harder to find Pandia Press does have science kits you can customize for just the items you need.
I have taken my kids through Life Science, Earth Science, Physics, and Bio 2 with the Real Science Odyssey program. Bio 2 is recommended for grades 6 and up. It is a LARGE jump, academically speaking, between the elementary levels and the Bio 2 book. If you move up to the level 2 books I highly recommend getting the teacher manual. 😉
Other Options for Secular Homeschool Science
This past year I have also used Mystery Science which has quick lessons and accompanying lab activities. There is a free version and a paid version (currently $89/year) for homeschoolers. You can search lessons by topic or grade level. Each lesson generally has a short video introduction and then the lab. These lessons were designed for regular classrooms so some of the activities are not appropriate if you don’t have multiple children.
If you have kids interested in engineering and problem solving then you might want to check out Teach Engineering by the University of Colorado-Boulder. This site has lesson plans and labs for K-12th. You can sort by age, topic or units. Again, most labs will use items you already have in your home. Lessons also contain links to their YouTube channel where you can see the project in action and know if you are doing it correctly.
All of these secular science options fit a range of ages. My kids are between the ages of 8 and 13 currently and we do the science all together. Mystery Science actually has separate lab sheets depending on the age of your kids. I love this and have my 2 older kids do the more in-depth sheets and questions with each lab.
Watch out for the “Ooh, there’s Something Shiny” Syndrome
Whether you are just embarking on a secular homeschool journey or you are looking for a fresh spark – watch out for that “ooh, there’s something shiny” syndrome. There are pros and cons to each curriculum option. Just because something works amazing for my family doesn’t mean it will be the same for you.
Take some time to figure out if you are more laid back, if you want more or less structure. Do you want modern literature or older texts? Do you want a literature-based curriculum or something more science heavy? How much time do you want to spend online?
You’re Not Doing it “Wrong”
Once you have figured out your kids’ strengths, your strengths and what works best in your family situation you will be well on your way to choosing a good secular homeschool curriculum. Having said that – don’t be afraid to change your mind. Something that has worked for many seasons might not be right after awhile. Nothing is permanent – that is the true beauty of homeschool – you can take what works and leave the rest.
If you have questions, comments or other curriculum you would like me to review please post them in the comments.