Growing up I attended both public and Christian schools. In several states. And looking back over the education I received, especially in my elementary/middle school years, the one thing that we all seemed to miss out on in that era was any knowledge on other religions.
I do remember the public school being better about diversity in its teaching than the private schools. There were little songs and crafts we did that tied into Hanukkah in elementary. In middle school one teacher taught us about Dia de los Muertos.
But that was about it. I grew up with a great understanding of Thanksgiving and Christmas, with no idea that there was really anything else going on from November-January. It took becoming interested as an adult (thank you Google) for me to learn more about what others celebrated and believed.
I also felt a tremendous admiration for how much the people of India incorporated their faith into their lives when I stayed there. It was natural to them to live and breathe it in everything they did and said. What a contrast from here where so many seem to be terrified of saying anything about their religion, no matter what it is. I came back feeling sad that our country had fallen so far away from that. I also wanted to know more about other beliefs, where they came from, what happened because of them. It’s not a subject most of us learn outside our parent’s views, church, and school.
Homeschooling means I get to change all of that for Bella. While we are Christians, I want Bella to grow up with a deep respect and knowledge of what other people believe. I want her to choose what she believes (whatever that may be) because she chose it, not because we forced it down her throat or kept her in a religion bubble her entire life. My parents were always great about letting us make our own choices with our faith.
Right now, she’s just learning about Christmas – heck – even just not opening the presents under the tree will be a challenge this year. So I have no expectations of her being able to tell us about Kwanzaa by December. But our goal is as years pass, the integration during her studies and especially the holidays will be a natural one. Just like moving often will allow us to work in different cultures and geography.
Even if you don’t homeschool, the opportunities to do this are always there. In a time when religion is inched around in public schools and religious schools focus on just their own, teaching your children about these kinds of things is a great way to introduce a lesson past tolerance – which to me carries a negative connotation of something we “put up with”. Instead, focus on the beauty of our country allowing different religions to co exist. Teach kindness and a willingness to learn and be open minded.
We’ve got an entire generation in our hands. It’s up to us to decide if the things we all want to be changed will happen because of them. I’m going to do my best to try to teach my children about more than our faith alone.