Monday, March 3, 2008

Wish List Items #8 & #9

8. Stop assuming all homeschoolers are religious.
9. Stop assuming that if we're religious, we must be homeschooling for religious reasons.

We happen to be religious, and homeschooling partially for religious reasons, but it did not start out that way. I may have shared this before, I don't recall.

We initially began homeschooling because our oldest daughter needed her family around her, for more than just 3 or 4 waking hours a day. She was experiencing some changes in her life that were causing her physical and emotional discomforts. Couple that with her coming home from school to discover a whole litany of new behaviors from her brother and sister, and you have a small child disconnecting from her family.

It is of utmost importance to me that my children be raised in the teachings of The Bible. It's really wonderful to have the opportunities to weave those stories and values into our everyday lessons and experiences. But there are plenty of homeschoolers, right here in our area, who are either not religious at all, or choosing not to school in a religious manner. Our homeschool group is a wonderful mix of many religions (including no religion) and cultures and lifestyles. There are loads of conferences and gatherings all across the county where homeschoolers can mix and mingle with families of every kind.

Homeschooling is about freedom. Freedom to do what is best for your family, whatever that means for you.


Nan Patience said...

Not sure I should comment on this one, it really opens a can of worms, but...

Frequently, when you find a homeschooling family, more often than not, they are highly religious, no? There is a reason for that notion. Not sure it's a myth.

Do you believe, then, that there isn't religious freedom at public school? How so? If anything, one feels that one doesn't belong unless one IS religious, and Christian in particular.

Where does the problem arise at school? Is it the theory of evolution? It certainly is difficult to believe in both creationism and evolution, it's a totally different mindset, that's for sure. Is it possible for evolution and creationism to co-exist? That's a good question people are asking, even now in the year 2008.

Also, the Bible teaches certain things with respect to gender and society that may not be practiced in school, right?

What else could be the trouble? Religion doesn't come up much at school, except to try to be inclusive and respectful of differences, in my experience.

Certainly, many children act in an unChristian way toward each other at school, but that's par for the course out in the world, ya've gotta learn to stand firm no matter where you go, don't you? What another family may do is not what your family does--the end.

Besides, don't you know lots of people who go to church regularly who still act in an unChristian manner the other six days of the week? Similarly, there are non-religious people who are very kind, respectful, loving, generous, and wise.

Asking for mutual tolerance of strongly held beliefs is, it seems to me, one of the great challenges of our time.

Mom of 3 said...

I don't think you opened a can of worms, I love a good dialogue!

It honestly hasn't otbeen my experience here on Long Island, that famililes are homechooling for religious reason. Of the families within East End Homeschoolers, I can only count 2 that I would say are very religious (other than us). One Catholic, one Protestant. There are a few Jewish families, some practicing, some not. By far, the majority within our group I would say are not religious.

Now, as for religion in public school... again, I do not think that here on Long Island there is an overwhelming amount of Christianity being pushed in public school. Obviously my knowledge of the inner workings of day to day classroom teaching is very limited. And I used to work in Great Neck, where Christians are a bit of a minority.

That being said, I do not think religion has a place in public school. I do think Creationism should be taught as a concept, same as evolution. I also think the Bible serves literary purpose, and if a teacher is able to teach it soley as an important piece of literature, I am ok with that. I would also be ok with the Koran or any other religious book being taught as literature, as is age appropriate.

I'm at work, more later!

j-m said...

As one with feet planted in both communities, being or having been a priv. schl teacher, FT homeschoolr, FT pub. schl teacher, now teachg 3 days a wk in diff. pub. schls, 2 days homeschlg (preschool) and staying in touch w/ homeschoolers, I think I have a pretty balanced view. Children in American schls, in a "Christian country" (title given in the lists of nations), are exposed to a watered-down version of Christianity in pub. elem. schls, basically as curricula revolve around the holidays. Teachers walk the tightrope, starting with Halloween, trying to maintain "sep. of church and state", making these days purely secular, wh. is difficult as children are curious and full of questions wh. often makes for uncomfortable moments in the classroom. This past Oct., in K-1, sev. classes had child-led discussions revolving around "we don't celebrate Halloween bec." everythg from "it's the devil's birthday" (??? where did that come from???) to Wicca references. Bec. of prev. prob. with determining "appropriate" costumes, one of my schls had a policy that no one, teacher or child, was to come in costume Oct. 31, and if a child did, the parent was to be called and the ch. would wait in the offc 'til the parent came w/diff. clothes. Lots of cans of worms. I was so happy it was all really over by about Nov. 5, just in time to prep. for Thanksgiving, with another can of worms...and on to Christmas. By attemptg to be tolerant and all-embracing, we teach nothing, or a verrrry watered-down version, of all the religion's holidays...esp. in Dec., trying to balance it out by teachg Hanukkah, Kwanza and Ramadan along w/Santa (the only, nonreligious, "acceptable" part of a decidedly religious holiday...who is "unacceptable" to many of the religious kids of all varieties.) I have found religion to be a huge stumbling block, bec. the elem. schls choose to build curricula around these holidays (mostly, to be frank, because they make for great craft ideas and bulletin board builders.)

I prefer middle schl and high school where we can have open and honest discussions about all of this, as the holidays are not celebrated (crafts don't really exist), and history curricula covers so much ground where the origins lie. I was teachg high schl FT Nov-Dec., and our Global Studies was at World Religions, so we went in depth into the "Big 3" monotheistic religions. The Muslims were shocked to find how much they had in common with the Jews ("they comsider pigs unclean, too?") when we went into depth about Hanukkah, the Maccabees, Antiochus Epiphanes, etc. The further we went in history, the more riveting discussions we had.
Sorry to hijack your blog, Momof3, but this is a really sore spot for me. My personal beliefs I keep inside, as a teacher, and teach religion, as it comes up, from a purely historical perspective...esp. as so much that now are trappings of holidays really have nothing to do with the holidays themselves (Example: Christ's Resurrection Day is incorrectly called "Easter", wh. refers to its predated religion, from wh. we get bunnies, eggs, and all that...cultures carry traditions from one religion to the next, making a jumbled present-day version.)

Other countries don't get into this at all by just not doing the holidays in school. Not a bad idea for K-6. Religion should be taught at matter what that means to each parent.

Nan Patience said...

Also the holidays have become incredibly disruptive!!! Small children really get distracted by all the hype. There is too much candy, which a lot of these kids need to eat WAY less of. Why are we having three days away from school for Easter? Easter falls on Sunday, and it's a religious holiday! What is the message there?

When the December holidays come, there is too much pressure for children to divulge their religious practices and beliefs to be judged by little children who don't know any better. Lots of grown-ups don't know any better, for crying out loud! Yes, some may argue that children are learning about differences and similarities among people, and it's a great exercise to learn to respect and tolerate others, but I think that's not how a lot of children operate.

With respect to teachers, there are those who are highly religious and who attempt to proselytize under the radar. They are offended when they are challenged on this, as if they're not being permitted to practice their religion. Some of them really can't help themselves. The kids had a camp counselor once who used every opportunity to talk about God, and even after I complained about it and she was told to stop, she then wore tee-shirts proclaiming Jesus as King and continued to play religious music during craft time.

I agree with J-M, religion is an entirely personal and private matter, and I also agree it can be taught in an historical manner once the children are a little older. As for the young 'uns, there are all kinds of crafts they can do pertaining to seasons, foods, the environment, animals, letters, numbers, time, careers, etc. There is no reason for classes to be spending so much time on what are religious holidays--and have I already mentioned there is too much time off for religious holidays??

j-m said...

I agree, Nan! In Oct., I did a unit on bats, wh. the kids loved (I learned a lot, too!) I refused to get caught up in it. Oct. 31 is not even a legal holiday, for crying out loud, but some schls go crazy with it.

Mom of 3 said...

j-m wrote "Religion should be taught at matter what that means to each parent."

EXACTLY!!!!! I see this debate as very geographical as well. I grew up in a town where a vast majority of the population was of the same religion. There was definitely religion practised in the public schools, but it was no big deal because there were no differenes. I am fairly certain some of that still exsists in the more rural parts of the country.

People, whatever their religion, do not always behave in a manner consistent with whatever their flavor of worship prescribes. I don't think this is an exclusively Christian dynamic. I appreciate having the opportunity to teach my children the keys of our faith, in every day circumstances. It is my hope that they will live their faith, and be beacons of light and hope to whomever they meet.

MamaCole said...

I agree with Nan, here. On all counts.

The candy, the crafts, the days off - it is RIDICULOUS! And the teachers are SO INTO it! Then when the PTA tries to hold an educational even like "TV Turnoff week" or the Science Fair, they tell us they (the teachers) really have too much else to do to participate!

My 7-year-old aske me the other day why we don't get Valentine's Day and Halloween off from school?