In a community where being religious is considered a virtue, the non-religious have such a small voice. So what do you do when you’re considered a menacing minority? As an adult we can distinguish when and where voicing our opinion is necessary, we know when it’s better to just smile and nod, and when it’s appropriate to say something. But children are notorious for not having the same filters and we don’t want them to be cast out by their peers just because of their parents ideological differences. So how should we teach young children to question things without ridicule from their peers, or without being disruptive?
It’s important that a secular family learn how to pick their battles, and learn how to fight them. Although it bothers me that the first thing my daughters kindergarten class does in the morning is recite the Pledge of Allegiance with “Under God” included, I know the place to fight this is at the voting booth, not the Principal’s office. I won’t tell my daughter not to participate, but I will tell her if she doesn’t want to she doesn’t have to.
One day, my daughter told me that her teacher said “Jesus makes rainbows.” This wasn’t part of their lesson plan, they were just outside on recess and saw a rainbow. The teacher offered an off-hand, thoughtless explanation. I could have made a fuss about a public school teacher telling my daughter that Jesus makes rainbows, but I didn’t. (After all, our teachers don’t get enough respect as it is, and I would feel terrible if she got in trouble over it.) Instead, I decided to be a little more productive. I didn’t tell my daughter that her teacher was wrong, this may have caused her to question the validity of other things her teacher says. So instead we got online and looked up rainbows and had a fun lesson about light refracting off the moisture in the clouds, etc…
Our evenings regularly consist of learning something new. Whether it’s a new science lesson about how the planet works, like “what causes thunder?” Or something about our daily life, such as how did the broccoli in our dinner get from the farm to our table. I’ve put together a very short list of some of our favorite places to visit:
http://www.sciencekids.co.nz This site has tons of cool facts, even experiments you can do with your child right at home. My kids especially loved making their own “fake snot.” http://www.planetpals.com This is a great site to teach your children the importance of taking care of our home, Earth. There are a lot of neat activities and ideas to be found here. http://www.funology.com/laboratory This site is probably our favorite. It has jokes, “magic” tricks, and of course fun facts and learning opportunities galore!
We’ve done this many times for many different things that are usually explained away with a simple “God did it.” It’s fun and it teaches kids how different things work, I’ve even learned quite a few things myself from our internet searches. It is important to build up curiosity so they seek knowledge.
My children are still very young. Ideological concepts are nowhere near as important to them as riding their bicycle outside. But I feel I’m helping them to form inquisitive minds, and giving them a few science lessons along the way. My new motto is “A family that learns together, stays together!” It doesn’t rhyme like it’s more popular counterpart, but it gets the point across.
This way they have the background knowledge that most things have a logical, rational explanation. It teaches them to not completely discredit what someone else says but to look for a more reasonable answer instead. It also teaches them that it’s O.K. to ask questions if something they were taught didn’t make complete sense to them. Curiosity and wonderment is my main goal for my children at this point in their lives.