Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.

Posts tagged “religion

Fight for Kids, Not Against Them

I came across this article the other day that was about fighting for your boys instead of against them. The post was Christian-based, but made some really valid ideas… up to a certain point.

Some of the first things on the page were amazing observations; that as our sons grow, feeling that we (parents and children) weren’t on the same team anymore; that it’s normal for our children to challenge parental authority as a natural part of breaking from the family unit to seek/establish their own identity; and that emotions can creep in and do their best to persuade Mom that the child is the problem, rather than the situation/behaviour.

I’m totally with her up to that point. I was expecting similarly ‘aware’ progression and advice/solutions to help a parent and a child work through this stage in a positive and productive manner, but what I got was an utter break in rational thought. To be fair, I didn’t realize that this was a Christian-based article; had I known that, I would have been prepared for the abrupt shift from ‘awareness and reason’ to the ‘slam-the-shutters-down’ glaze of reason in favor of the party-line of Christian-based ignorance.

Rather than offer practical solutions, the author completely ignores the *actual* issues like communication, understanding and the like, she introduces unnecessary confusion into the equation by excusing the child’s behaviour completely by blaming ‘Satan’ as the one who’s destroying your relationship with your child and “Jesus/God” and prayer being the solution. Rather than actually DOING anything, she advocates what boils down to making a series of wishes, crossing your fingers and hoping that things will get better while absolving yourself of any further responsibility. After all, it’s not our fault that these issues escalate; it’s ‘Satan’.

I’ve never understood this  mindset – that parents bear no responsibility. Putting the onus on parents to ‘pray harder’ or ‘do more’ (which usually means getting more involved at church, which ends up taking the parents even further away from their kids) makes parents feel even more helpless, and that things are even further removed from their hands to ‘fix’ things. Perpetuating the idea that parents can’t be wrong under the guise of being ‘godly’ only further alienates children from their parents, because the solutions aren’t family-based. All the kids end up seeing is a parent traveling a road that the child isn’t on, doesn’t understand, or isn’t interested in. More effective, I believe, if for parents to be open to the idea that they may have things ALL WRONG. Examine their methods and look for flaws. Admitting to their mistakes, acknowledging their humanity and propensity to make mistakes levels the playing field and puts you all firmly on the same side. How much easier is it for a child to admit to his mistakes when a parent first admits their own?

I believe in helping my children understand that they control their own actions, just as I do. We all make decisions each and every step of our lives, and they aren’t always the right ones. But even a misstep can be re-directed. It’s not some invisible evil that tempts and lures us; it’s decision-making on our part. Sure, we can be led astray, or get lost for a time, but having a family structure that allows for mistakes and is supportive about correcting them can help set things right again. Cultivating an environment within the family of being honest with ourselves about how we feel, what we need, asking for help when we need it, and a host of other issues that both begin and end with the parents. I don’t believe that there is an invisible force that will magically fix things, or in excusing my children’s undesirable behaviours (due to immaturity, lack of experience or hormonally-driven out of control emotions) because of ‘Satan’. Poking your head in the sand never solved anything. Perpetuating a culture of helplessness by shirking the monumental task of raising children to be responsible, self-aware adults who contribute positively to society is detrimental to our future on this planet. It’s even more difficult when the parents are re-working their own childhood trauma to make better decisions for their own families.

The practical solution to this issue begins when they are small. Children understand language long before they have the ability to speak. If even a 6 month old dog can understand basic commands, think how much more intelligent our children are. If we give our children the vocabulary to describe their feelings, help them focus on how they feel as a basis for asking for what they need, imagine how much more concise their communication will be when they’re older. Sometimes, for myself especially, this means learning to do that for yourself is the first step – and it’s a hard one. While this is my ideal, it’s certainly not always attainable; I’m human and fallible, not a robot that can be programmed without deviation to a previous operating system. I’ve also failed in numerous ways to override my first impulse and implement the new ways of communication that I’ve striven to learn. Thankfully, my kids are both understanding and forgiving, and we continue to learn together.

I’m not an expert of child-rearing, but I do know that ‘prayer’, at least when applied to this type of situation, isn’t a solution. It may be part of a solution, but it’s not going to work without the active involvement of the parents and cooperative action from the children. Kids need active parenting – proActive parenting, even. Especially as pre-teens and teens, when they’re going through the agonizing process of separating themselves from their identity as an almost-adult instead of ‘X’s child’. I would so much rather have my children know that they can come to me with mist-steps along the way and know that they will find a hearing (and understanding) ear rather than a disappointed tut-tut and reference to the Nation of Israel, or some other biblical anecdote that vaguely mirrors the situation they’ve come to me with (I always HATED that as a kid).

I don’t ‘like’ organized religion as a whole; that’s no secret. But if you’re religious, that’s fine – pray, pray for your kids, pray with them. But please don’t make the mistake of praying and thinking that you’re done. Offspring are long-term projects; ones that take YEARS to fully develop, and they need you every step of the way.

Warmly,
~h

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Religion and Education

This is a topic that I have been meaning to write about for a long time – that of having to learn Science and History in order to teach Science and History to my children.

One of the problems that I have with my religious upbringing is the complexity of the mis-information that I was exposed to in the church about science and history, even to the point of being told to ignore or devalue what was taught in school. It’s not so much what was taught; anything that is learned can be revised or corrected with further education; it was more the method – the implication that what is being taught is absolute truth because it comes from Divine Inspiration.

I can specifically remember hearing in sermons and discourses, and reading in publications by the church that address such topics as Darwin, evolution, age of the earth, Biblical ‘historical’ events – things that I believed that I had a complete education about. I grew up confident that thing things I learned about those subjects were both  factual and superior to those published by professionals in those fields because we had Divine Guidance and they were ‘just’ scientists, historians, anthropologists, and other professionals in those fields, who, even with all their fancy education, lacked Divine Guidance to see the to the Truth of things.

This is a fallacy. I have suffered because of it, and were I less contentious parent, my children would have, also.

This reasoning, ‘we know because we have God’; is indicative of the arrogance that Christianity breeds, and it is this arrogance that I feel is utterly detrimental to the processes of education. The ideas that: God has chosen you and your religious counterparts to receive ‘special’ knowledge; that your understanding of a subject is superior regardless of the current accepted factual understanding of research, physics or nature may say;  that your education about such matters is complete because you have God on your side, essentially absolves the individual of the need to study, learn, seek, and to find out for themselves. It imbues them with a false sense of expertise on subjects that they are piteously ignorant of. Worse, it leads vastly under-educated individuals to perpetuate misinformation based on a woefully lacking basic understanding of historical events and the way the universe works. Detriment sets in when these same dreadfully under-educated children grow up with that false expertise and become the next generation of teachers and law-makers.

I use words like ‘woefully’, ‘piteously’ and ‘dreadfully’, because it is! I had literally had no idea how much I didn’t know until I started having to contemplate teaching my children. I was left without so much as a rudimentary understanding of what the theory of evolution is because of how badly Darwin’s work is misrepresented by my parents’ religion. It wasn’t until I started homeschooling that I realized exactly how misguided and even maliciously under-educated the churches want their subjects. If for nothing else, then the possibility that their ‘have a building, obviously need a builder’ analogy is utterly irrelevant ; the possibility that evolution ‘might’ be true would, in effect, erase the need for a Creator. It’s not like God (in whatever form or concept you wish it) couldn’t exist for other reasons – but once you start exploring the possibility that life didn’t have, doesn’t need an intentional beginning… that opens the door to so may other questions that religion cannot answer.

One of the things I heard over and over as a child was that secondary education was, at the least, unnecessary and at the worst, actually harmful to God’s People. First of all, because we’re ‘living in the last days’, and so occupations like Doctor or Lawyer, which require many years of schooling that take away from the task assigned all True Christians, to ‘preach the Word’, would be irrelevant after Armageddon (or God’s Righteous Cleansing of the Earth of all Wickedness) because people will be perfectly healthy and sin-less (so no disease, death or injustice). Why waste all that time in school when you could be out there preaching?!

Secondly, beware! Exposure to too much thinking can ‘educate’ God right out of you! The more you’re exposed to other faiths (because mixing with ‘The World’ is bad), and philosophical ideas (which just confuse a good, God-Fearing mind), the farther away from being ‘sheep-like’, meek and mild one becomes. My answer to that was always, ‘Yeah… and? Sheep are stupid creatures. They’re not intelligent enough to save themselves even if the herd is leading them to their ultimate demise. Who in their right mind wants to emulate sheep?!’. But we’re supposed to be sheep, with Jesus as our Shepherd, following along, doing what we’re told.

I also grew up to eschew the concept of ‘independent thinking’. After all, that’s what got us into this mess – Eve decided to think for herself and eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad instead of blindly following what God told her. If she had remained innocent and ignorant, then she wouldn’t have doomed mankind to sin and death. That idea/teaching has always bothered me, because without full disclosure, educated decision making is absent. Eve didn’t have full disclosure. She was asked to choose to remain ignorant or educate herself. And human nature, the desire we were CREATED with according to creationism, was her downfall. That smacks of being set up to fail. Oh, sure – arguments can be made that Eve was told what would happen, but how many of us have a baby who just has to touch the pretty flame before learning that it is, indeed hot, just as mommy has always warned? Do we doom the child to die for fulfilling the need to find that out for himself? Of course not.

As an adult, when I realized just how badly misinformed I was, it put me in the unique position of finding out for myself what the facts say. I am not an unintelligent person. I enjoy reading, research, writing, history – all fun things for me. Unfortunately, physics and biology and history are very, very complex subjects, with literally millions of years of information to wade through. So even though I have done my level best (and continue to) read and watch and listened to books, videos, and lectures, there does come a point where I have to defer to the experts. I choose to defer those who have devoted their lives to learning, understanding and teaching such things, and I gladly defer to their superior knowledge of their subject.  After all, if they’ve devoted their lives to these fields of study, then they know infinitely more about them that I could learn as either an individual seeking to further my own education, or as a homeschool teacher. Deferring to their superior knowledge in no way absolves my responsibility to continue learning.

But at no point would/should/could I defer to religious amateurs who have absolutely no professional training in that field and claim ‘Divine Guidance’ for their take on things, and yet that’s what millions of people do on a daily basis – probably without even realizing it. Religious leaders generally have training from a seminary school, and if they have historical and/or scientific training, it comes from a theological viewpoint, which is to say, not unbiased. This is especially true in my parents’ religion, where the pinnacle of achievement is to devote your life to God’s Service, putting whatever skills you possess at the disposal of the church leaders. However, coupled with aforementioned aversion to secondary schooling, what you end up with is a bunch of ignorant, but sincere, people with zero educational or scientific expertise to lend to the validity of the religion’s claims on such matters. Claims which, with any depth of examination are easily discredited.

While I was writing this, I was searching for images, and came across this one called ‘A Matrix of Science and Religion by Colleen Scheck. It’s interesting to me; I don’t classify myself as an atheist; if anything I suppose I might be considered agnostic by some, though I purposefully do not claim any religious labels here.

I enjoy the ideas set forth by Humanist organizations, and enjoy learning about native and historical religions with their various deities and ceremonies… these enjoyments make me a hodge-podge of spiritual influences that I choose not to define. Suffice it to say that I am happy with my current state of spirituality and religious practice and it really shouldn’t mater to anyone else what I believe or how I express those beliefs, but I do find this image very interesting. I tend to fall somewhere in the ‘potentially co-existing’ area. I was raised in the opposite spectrum – that religion is set, and science is an ever-changing process (the oft-spoken ideal was that eventually science would ‘catch up’ to our religion), and therefore the two were in constant conflict. Concepts and events like: the age of the earth, the existence and time-frame of dinosaurs, whether or not the Exodus account is true, or the Great Flood happened as the Bible describes it; for individuals who accept the bible as a collection of stories that loosely ‘document’ one part of the world and culture of that time, there is plenty of room for modern science. But having the narrow-minded view that the bible is literal and factual on all counts – means that you must – MUST – at some point choose to blindly disregard things that can be proven.

Knowledge is always preferable to ignorance. Knowledge has the unique task of shaping reality. Things that you know to be true have a profound impact on how you live; on the decisions that you make; on how you spend your money or raise your children. I don’t want my children growing up believing something just because they ‘heard’ it, or ‘read’ it or ‘saw’ it. I want them to believe things because they heard it, AND read it, AND saw it. I want their information to come from various sources, with various agendas pushing that viewpoint. I want them to gather information and make informed decisions based on facts, not blindly follow. When facts from those various sources agree, then – and only then – can something be known. And even then, it may be subject to change as we learn more.

One of my favorite quotes is this, and I thought it would be a fitting close to this article:

“Knowledge is power. Power corrupts. Study hard; be Evil.”

~anonymous

Warmly,

~h


Defining ‘Inclusive’ in Homeschool Groups

I wanted to talk a bit about the term ‘inclusive’. It’s a term that many homeschoolers hear often, but there doesn’t seem to be a unified understanding of what it means with regard to homeschooling groups.

By far, the most common use of  the term ‘inclusive’ in homeschool group descriptions means that though the group is firmly XYZ (usually specifically Christian based, often fundamentalist), they allow other people to join. By ‘join’, they mean that you’re allowed to participate in their discussions and events, but you’re not allowed to rock the boat, idea-wise. This means that if you subscribe to a scientific age of the earth and the group as a whole purports a young earth ideology, then you don’t get to mention your disruptive beliefs. There is no respectful sharing of information, and no friendly debate allowed. You can come, but you don’t make waves.

The other use of ‘inclusive’ means that you’re allowed to join and have your own beliefs and ideas, and as long as you keep it to a respectful sharing of ideas and not wander off into evangelism land, you’re allowed and sometimes even encouraged to share them. You can be any religion or none, and be perfectly welcome. Often, these types of inclusive groups also define themselves as ‘secular’ as well (meaning that the group, itself, does not promote one religion over another; there is usually no ‘official’ mention of religion at all). This type of group generally welcomes respectful sharing of beliefs and ideas, and even encourages questioning and friendly debate. It is assumed that you’re here to learn and share, and that your beliefs may or may not be in the minority and that’s okay.

It is only this second type of group that actually fit the definition of  ‘inclusive’. Their practices actually are inclusive; it’s not just that they allow you to be there, they welcome you and your ideas to the rich tapestry of the group. They understand and respect that you may have differing beliefs and don’t tread on your toes with unwelcome religious proselytizing or verbiage that clearly promotes one belief over another. Furthermore, even if the bulk of the group is one religion or lifestyle, they go out of their way to make sure that they’re not doing things that make others feel unwelcome.

Contrast that with the first type of group – they don’t mind if you’re there, but they don’t really want your unique flavor in their mix. I am not opposed to this type of group; I both understand and can appreciate the value in having a group of people available to you that share your beliefs or way of life. Everyone should have a safe place to go to in order to work out their thoughts; reinforce their ideas and help fit new information into the framework of their current foundation. But it’s misleading to advertise your group as ‘inclusive’ when your practice goes against the definitions of the word. Saying ‘open to all as long as you understand and agree that XYZ’ is not the same as ‘inclusive’, especially when you really mean ‘open to anyone who is not homosexual, Atheist, Pagan, Muslim, Jewish or any other religion/sexual orientation/ way of life that we disapprove of’.

Dictionary.com defines ‘inclusive’ as that includes;  enclosing; embracing. Thesaurus.com offers across-the-board, all the options, all together, all-around,  comprehensive,  full, global, whole, without exception as synonyms. As a homeschooling parent, I like the idea of those concepts for my children. I think that it is my job as my kids grow to continually expose  them to ideas and thoughts and beliefs that make them think. As a parent and teacher, I am here as a sounding board, to listen to them and help them work through the things they hear and see and learn and help them clarify what they think about it; not to impose my thoughts and beliefs onto them. They have my example, and should they choose to follow, that’s great. If not, then I trust that I have raised intelligent people who are capable of reasoning out for themselves what fits into their life best. Considering the fact that I continue to learn and grow and see my ideas shaped by what I learn with each passing year, it’s ridiculous to think that I would be able to simply ‘tell’ my kids what to believe and have them just merrily go along with it.

I enjoy being part of an inclusive group because it gives my children that opportunity to get to know people of other religions. It exposes them to differing world views and ways of life, and the opportunity to ask questions and in general see that we’re all really not that much different. I think that part of my responsibility as a homeschooling parent is to make sure that my children are exposed to a diverse group of people. How can they learn what they think about things if their ideas are never challenged?

Surrounding yourself with like-minded people is not a bad thing. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people in an effort to avoid coming into contact with ideas and ideals that challenge yours IS a bad thing. Worse, offering a support group to your community in the guise of being helpful, all the while using that group to further a religious agenda or to attempt to squelch other ideas or convert non-conformists is tricksy and dishonest, and hardly conforms to the Christian ideals that many such groups claim to support.

If you’re so confident in your beliefs, then talking to someone who doesn’t share them shouldn’t affect your faith. There is no danger to me in talking to someone who is Christian because I don’t share their beliefs or faith. I have nothing to fear from them, or anything they say. In fact, I think that my beliefs are strengthened by interacting with people who don’t share my beliefs, and I also find that my beliefs are enhanced by understanding why they believe and think the way they do. There’s a beauty in not being so bound up by dogma and fear; getting to see and experience and share someone else’s beliefs is a joyous thing. Having an inclusive group, with a diverse membership makes this process easy, both for myself and my children. What a shame that most faith-based groups can’t say the same thing.

Warmly,

~h

Socializing With ‘Normal’ Kids

If there’s one area of interest that I share with Christian Homeschoolers, it’s the desire to have a strong social network of like-minded peers for my children.

I want my kids to see other families placing importance on issues that we feel strongly about. I want them to see and hear the things that we believe reinforced in their peers’ actions, conversations and beliefs. I want my kids to know and interact with other people out there who share our world-view and mindset. I feel that this is a key point in helping my children find their place in the world.

Unfortunately, living a secular lifestyle in the Bible Belt makes that desire somewhat challenging to fulfill. Though we have an active secular homeschooling support group, we’re far from the majority.  ‘Normal’ people around here attend a Christian-based church. Most people admit, and prefer, that their primary social network is deeply rooted in the church. Even people who don’t attend church regularly espouse some religious preference or bias and still tend to form relationships with people who share an affinity for their chosen religious leanings. Though religious diversity is finally starting to trickle down this far south the vast majority of people, especially in the homeschooling community, are of a Christian denomination.

For the most part, that’s fine. Like most ‘normal’ people, our family places importance on being fair and considerate, being respectful to and of others, being a good neighbor and continuing to ‘better’ ourselves, and on other basic ethical principles. But that’s really where the similarities end.

We don’t place emphasis on the Bible or any other ‘holy book’. We respect that other people do, but it is far from an infallible source of authority in our home. When there’s a question, we don’t ask ‘what would Jesus do’, we talk about how doing XYZ ‘feels’ or how that might impact you in the future, or look to history to see how a similar action turned out. When faced with questions that can’t be answered, we emphasize that it is okay not to know all the answers and again encourage focusing inwardly to explore how different paths feel for you as an individual. We feel that it’s our job to guide them on their journey, not direct them on a path.

It’s just as important to me to have these concepts reinforced in my children’s social circle as it is for your average ‘normal’ mom to want her ideals echoed in her children’s peer group. It’s even more important when the issues are more complicated; things like LGBT rights, family planning and reproductive rights, sex education and sexual activity, language, censorship… there are many issues that we feel differently about than your average bear. It worries me that my children might be deemed a ‘bad influence’ when they’re around ‘normal’ kids just because of differences in opinion on what ‘right’ is. My children recognize injustice and hate, even when it’s painted with the church’s brush, and aren’t afraid to decry it. Some people find that offensive and though I feel that’s their issue and not ours, justifying wrong as ‘right’ in the name of religion is not something I want my kids exposed to.

So how does one go about establishing connections with like-minded people? The internet, of course! Something I have been looking for, and finding, is other secular and inclusive groups in my area. Granted, my ‘area’ has grown to include cities over 3 hours away, but still. There are more than a couple of close-ish groups that specifically call to homeschooling families that eschew the stereotype and not only are ‘secular’ but have members who practice religions other than Christianity.

I believe that making these connections now, while my kids are young, will afford them opportunities when they’re older. Expanding my reach and field of vision is important if I want them to think and live globally. I feel that the key to respect is exposure – exposure to differences of viewpoint and lifestyles that challenge their concept of ‘normal’; exposure to art, literature, ideas, beliefs and religions that aren’t represented or respected in our community. It is important to me that my children learn to look beyond external extensions of their peers and see the person as a whole; to find what is similar instead of what is different.

I’m fortunate to have found a local community of like-minded families to spend time with. I am glad that my children have friends who are being raised similarly, whose parents answer questions with the same sort of mindfulness that I strive to consider when replying. As the secular homeschooling community expands, I look forward to meeting other parents who share that world view, and the additional opportunities that will be available through those connections. Very fortunate, indeed.

Warmly,

~h


Religion Matters!


Something that’s come to my attention as a homeschooling mom that I didn’t notice as a ‘classroom mom’ is that religion matters. Not to me, but to the homeschooling community in general. It even matters to the people in your community as a whole since once they learn you’re homeschooling, they automatically assume that you’re one of the denim jumper moms (even though my blacker-than-thou’s teeshirt, ripped jeans and coordinating black nail polish do their best to discourage that assumption).

As a parent with kids in school-school, my religion never really entered the picture. I was raised in a faith where it was a big deal at the beginning of every year for my mom to sit down with the teacher and explain why I couldn’t participate in holidays and wasn’t going to be standing for or saying the pledge. Our church even had a special booklet that was designed just for teachers. Since I chose not to pursue that religion with my own children, there wasn’t any need to outline what I believed because there was nothing in my belief system that would ostracize or make my kids stand out so much that it required explanation. In school-school, it just doesn’t matter (unless you’re trying to skimp on the snacks for holiday parties – then you get the evil eye from the Room Mothers… but since I usually was one of the Room Mothers and usually first in line with holiday coordinated store-bought home-made goodies, that wasn’t really an issue for me.) Yeah, I was that mom. Even I hated me some days… I missed out on all that as a kid, so that had a lot to do with my motivation.

But, I digress… back to the subject at hand.

Fast forward to this past January, and my entry into the homeschooling community; though truthfully,  I guess I should say ‘re-entry’. When I was in high school, my mom got fed up with the ‘security’ measures being taken at the local high schools, and decided that we would be homeschooling from then on. She was awesome in her organizational capabilities. I don’t think  that there were very many organized homeschool groups back then, but she created one and planned field trips and all kinds of activities for the group.

Even before I had my first child, I knew that I wanted to homeschool my kids. Once my boys were pre-school aged, I started reaching out to the local, and by then far more organized, homeschooling community… and promptly got my hand slapped. Why? Because I was not the right flavor of Christian. At that time, I was indeed a Bible-toting, aspiring Titus 2 woman intent on honoring God by being a dutiful wife and committed mother, and homeschooling was just another step on that path.

The only problem was that I was not a ‘fundamentalist Christian’. I don’t know if these types exist in other places, but you can’t open a Bible ’round here without knocking into one of them, they’re so thick in the South. From what I can gather, the foundation of fundamentalists Christians seems to consist of making sure that their beliefs are in no way challenged, and a great deal of evangelizing with the goal of saving your heathen soul from the eternal flames of hell. Oh, I’m making light of it, of course, but these are some deeply religious folks and a great many of them are both honest and sincere in their belief that it is their duty to at least attempt to bring you to Jesus lest your blood be on their hands come Judgement Day. In some ways, I admire that kind of … faith? I don’t know what it is, really. I don’t want it for myself, or for my kids, but I am happy for them if it makes them so. But if I say that I’m not interested in hearing their message, I don’t think it’s too much to expect that I no longer be pressured to convert.

Since I was a ‘different’ kind of Christian, I was deemed unfit to join or participate in any of the already-formed groups in this area. Even my own religion frowned on inter-faith association, but as they also lacked a homeschooling support network (though homeschooling was pretty common among members of my religion) I was forced to look outside the fold to find support. I don’t know why it came as such a big surprise to be so completely cast out, but it did.

All I really wanted was a group that was inclusive and respectful of other types of Christian beliefs. I don’t care what you believe; I wasn’t looking for religious flavor in my kids’ education. I just wanted a group of homeschooling moms to talk with and learn from and hang out with when we had time. Most of the groups already formed here required members to sign a statement of faith (and still do).  I wanted a more secularly based group so that the religion thing didn’t come up or create conflict. If there had been a secular group available, I’d have joined it in a second! But there wasn’t so it was either suffer in silence or start a new group. Once I thought about it, starting a group myself sounded more and more like a good idea. I could create a group with a more open-minded atmosphere so that I, and others like me, would be both welcome and comfortable participating without worrying about the religion factor.

And that’s pretty much the kind of group we have. Though we’re open to pretty much anyone, there is definitely a certain ‘type’ who would simply not be comfortable in our group. On one hand that bothers me. On the other, there are 5 (FIVE!!) Christian-based homeschooling support/co-op groups here – no 6 if you count the super-secret group that is by invitation only that I just learned about – so I think there’s plenty of support for that ‘type’. I don’t want to have an issue because my kid pulls out an h-e-double hockey sticks when he is wronged or wears a tee-shirt covered in skulls, or the conversation turns to last week’s True Blood or planning for a field trip to the local Buddhist Temple. We’re not trying to step on anyone’s toes, but we do recommend steel-toed boots if you’re going to hang with us. {wink}

It’s fascinating to me how much religion matters to the vast majority of homeschoolers out there; how dividing beliefs can be in this day and age. I thought we were moving more towards acceptance and respect as a society, not clinging to and even reinforcing the thoughts and ideas that segregate us along chosen lines. It’s just so odd to me that there are actually people out there who feel like having a non-religious person, or a person who is a different religion than they are, being around their kids is so dangerous and damaging to them that they create what is essentially a closed community within which to raise them. A community that they actively guard and protect against any thought or idea that might present options to their kids outside of those that they find acceptable. It’s sad, really. Those kids are every bit as oppressed as any other group of people who has been given only a certain portion of freedom or purposely limited in knowledge and access to information and experience. That is exactly the kind of environment that gives the homeschooling community such a bad reputation.

For me, homeschooling is partially about experiencing life outside the classroom. Classrooms have walls and boundaries that make it so difficult for a child to experience life as long as they have to be cooped up in one, and I certainly don’t want my homeschool to have barriers before my children because of my beliefs. I don’t think that closed-mindedness has any place in education. My religious beliefs have evolved quite a bit over the years and I’ve come to see belief as a fluid thing. It’s ever-changing in response to what life hands me and I’m fine with that. I tend to think that belief is a journey, not a destination; though I am sure that makes me a very scary lady to some. But you know what? As I said on SecularHomeschooling.com,

I’m awesome; my kids are awesome and if your beliefs don’t allow for the sunshine in my world to brighten yours, then I am not the one missing out {wink}
~h

Warmly,

~h


Sunday Surf for Sept. 5

To start the morning off (okay – afternoon… it’s been a long and busy week and I am playing catch-up in a major way!!), I thought we could take a moment to share a song from the Atheist’s Hymnal with Steve Martin.

From there, I thought we could visit with Madeline Bea Photography’s Sunday Creative prompt. Since I’ve been kid-free this weekend (the boys have been at my parent’s house all weekend, and are out with my Loverly Husband for a visit to his grandmother), I thought it might be nice to see if something she’s posted lately provides some creative inspiration.

I also really enjoyed ‘The Gift of Time’ at Homeschooling With Attitude.

TX Parks and Wildlife’s Be an Outdoor Kid site has fun stuff for the kiddies that encourages outdoor play and exploration.

Kids.gov is a site we’ve been on frequently in the past week. We’ve been working on a lapbook for the Constitution, and it’s come in quite handy.

Moms Rising is an activist site that has a form letter that can be customized and sent to your senator to urge them to co-sponsor S.593 – the Ban Poisonous Additives Act of 2009 – and support amending it to the Senate Food Safety Modernization Act. Since we just talked about BPA in the water bottles we’re putting in the field trip boxes, I thought this was an apt addition to today’s post! Moms Rising is a great site anyway, with tons of articles dealing with making America more ‘family friendly’. Mothers Acting Up is another cool mommy activism site.

I’ve found Sister Dottie S. Dixon to be quite entertaining… as the proud mother of a gay son, Mormon Mom Dottie is (in her own words) ‘Plum full of dicey opinions, wisdoms and sage advice’. Her YouTube vids are… enlightening, to say the least.

I know this is short today, so apologies… other than my blog and Facebook, I really haven’t been doing much blogsurfing this week. Hopefully, some of the other SS participants will have some cool stuff to click. Be sure to check them out : Breastfeeding Moms UniteDomesticated WomenThis Adventure LifeMaman A DroitHobo Mama and Baby Dust Diaries.

Warmly,

~h


Religion = good behavior?

(Notes on this post: I was gone all afternoon on Thursday, so this is my Secular Thursday post for this week, even though today is Saturday; and this post comes about in contemplation of this article, Study: Religion is Good for Kids.)

I consider myself a spiritual person in that I have a strong moral code and set of beliefs about deity that I adhere to in order to explain the unexplainable, and my beliefs may or may not agree with yours. I’m really fine with that. I even enjoy discussing religion as a topic, and as long as your plan is to merely share your beliefs and not to attempt to bash me over the head with your Jesus stick or shove your bible down my throat in a misguided attempt at ‘saving’ me, then even if we fundamentally disagree on every point, in my opinion, we can still be friends.

Now, before we go much further I will admit that, living in the Bible Belt, when I hear reference to ‘religion’ I automatically assume that you’re talking about Christianity. I realize that I may be showing my small town southern roots here, but since most of my comments about the theory of “religion=good kids” are in relation to how some Christian authors tell you how to raise kids and my own experiences with Christianity, and since the resulting clashes in child rearing philosophy between what they advocate and what I think is good and right have left a somewhat negative impression on me, that’s my bias.

If you’ve read here before, then you may have seen commentary about certain so-called ‘Christian’ authors who advocate practices that can only be described as child abuse. I have been fairly vocal about my opinions of such authors, but have not really delved into the ‘why’. Aside from the obvious, my personal child-rearing philosophy is quite different from theirs. Even if you take away the abusive aspects, I would still not recommend these authors’ ideas because of the way they perceive the nature of a child to be (i.e.: sinful and selfish, out to manipulate, etc.)

To be clear, I am in no way saying that all Christian parents are abusive, nor am I equating a religious upbringing (regardless of sect) with abusive households in every case. What I am exploring here is my own experience with a Christian upbringing and the tendency among Christian parents to use corporal punishment as a first line of defense for all transgressions, both small and great, to control and coerce children into what is viewed as acceptable (and therefore ‘godly’) behavior.

I really have a problem with them using religion as an indicator of behavior in small children. It sends the message that the end result justifies whatever means you use to achieve that. For lots of Christian families, the tools they use can border on abuse, both physical and emotional. I am not outright opposed to spanking as many are, but I do think that we parents are surely intelligent enough to reach our children without resorting to physical punishment from the get-go. From my own experience, we were spanked without consideration of the external factors that contributed to the situation and were usually expected to accept punishment with a minimum of fuss or else face additional punishment if we failed to get our emotions under control within the alloted time frame. We were expected to ‘straighten up and fly right with only a word, because we knew that the consequence for failing to mind was severe and painful.

In such an environment, of course the children will ‘behave’ – they’re terrified of getting into trouble! I was always looking for a way, any way, to avoid getting in trouble. Telling the truth netted a spanking most of the time, as would lying, but a lie would delay the spanking for however long. When you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, what would you do to save your butt? It’s hardly fair to compare the behavior of children from a home where the parents, because of their religious beliefs, require strict obedience and/or a joyful attitude even in the face of painful punishment to those who come from homes where the children are treated as whole human beings with the same rights owed to them as any adult. You wouldn’t punish your friend who was grouchy because she was hungry or tired, you’d make excuses for them, or offer them food or facilitate a nap if possible. Why are children, who are less capable of attributing grouchiness to another need than adults are, not worthy of being treated similarly?

If you take out the word “religion” and substitute “strong moral code”, then I pretty much agree with much of what the article says. I don’t think that any of the results that the researcher found would not be able to be duplicated in an environment where the parents had a strong network of support from similarly minded peers (for example, regular attendance at a playgroup, parenting support group or homeschooling group meeting). Frequency may play a role, and as few of those other type groups are so rigid or structured as religious services the results may not be exactly comparable, but I don’t think that the characteristics that they polled (behavior, self-control,  social skills and approaches to learning) are limited to ‘religious’ families – I think it has more to do with support in general.

One of the primary ‘lessons’ I came away with as an adult is to hide emotions. Even now, I am not all that great at reflecting how I am feeling and it took me a long time to stop ‘acting’ happy when I darn well wasn’t. That’s not what I want for my kids, and even though it is more challenging to watch them act how they feel, it is comforting to me to know that my children are in touch with their feelings, and we’re all learning to communicate and address needs better because of it.

The last paragraph of the article reads,

“There are certain expectations about children’s behavior within a religious context, particularly within religious worship services,” he said. These expectations might frustrate parents, he said, and make congregational worship “a less viable option if they feel their kids are really poorly behaved.”

I assert that ‘poorly behaved’ is a misleading phrase. If ‘poorly behaved’ means that my kids are more impulsive (because they didn’t get their hands slapped every time they reached for something) or less apt to sit still for long periods of time (because they weren’t threatened with a wooden spoon if they wiggled during church) or be quiet when they feel they’ve been wronged (because they weren’t conditioned to accept punishment because they’ve probably done something to be punished for that wasn’t witnessed), but you know what? I’m okay with that. In fact, I prefer it.

I saw a tee-shirt the other say that said, “Know Religion, No Peace. No Religion, Know Peace”. While I don’t think that’s necessarily true in all cases,  I find it to be a provocative statement that might be worth your consideration.

Warmly,

~h