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  1. #41

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    Sorry, had to help a relative with a health crisis.

    @Muddylilly: Yes, we took it quite seriously. But you might not have been able to tell from the outside.

    Religious education ideally isnít formal, and though they should have access to scriptures, it mostly doesnít come from books (good thing, because as you imply, the Christian ones are mostly terrible). Parents should weave religious observations and questions into everyday conversation.

    I remember driving by a mosque with my then-four-year-old, who pointed out the gold dome.

    "Ooh, that is nice," I said. "Thatís a kind of church called a mosque. People who go there pray five times every day, and they all face a city far away when they do it.Ē No need to get into the Five Pillars of Islam. A few months later, we saw a woman on the street wearing a hijab. "Remember the mosque, that church with the gold dome? Thatís what some people wear who go to a mosque."

    As kids mature, include more complex information. No discussion of Martin Luther King, Jr. is complete without noting that he was a Baptist minister, and that his religion was important to him. Likewise, no discussion of the American Revolution is complete without noting that the majority of the founders were religious skeptics of one stripe or another. Talk about the religious components of events in the news, from stem cells to global warming to terrorism to nonviolence advocacy.

    Exposing kids only to "world religions" always felt a little imperialistic to me. That's why in addition to stories from the big five, my kids have also heard about Jasy Jatere, the shark god of Molokai, Anansi the Spider, and the cargo cults of the South Pacific. We tell these stories and Paul Bunyan and King Arthur in the same spirit, letting the ideas of religion and myth and legend comingle in their minds as they do in reality.

    Opportunities are everywhere and not to be missed. Two weeks ago I heard my son singing and practicing guitar. It was Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." When he got to the strange line, "She tied you to her kitchen chair / She broke your throne, she cut your hair," I asked if he knew the reference, then told him about the myth of Samson, the hero whose power was contained in his long hair. It took only a minute, but he's not likely to forget such a potent image. And on we go.

    We attend church on occasion with trusted relatives. It's essential that children go beyond knowledge on the page to see and experience religion in practice, as many different kinds as possible. Our family just had this point driven home powerfully when we attended Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on the weekend of the King holiday. Emotion, community, celebration, exhortation, the call to be a better personóthese are all a part of the religious experience, and I have not honestly given my children a religious education until they have felt that side of it.

    Once in awhile, we watch movies with religious themes: Prince of Egypt, Little Buddha, Kirikou and the Sorceress, Fiddler on the Roof, Gandhi, Jesus Christ Superstar. Even something like Bruce Almighty grapples with genuine religious questions.

    We invite our kids to seek out the opinions of others. When my daughter asked "Dad? Did Jesus really come alive after he was dead?" I said, "I donít think he did. I think thatís just a story to make us feel better about death. But talk to Grandma Barbara. I know she thinks it really happened. And then you can make up your own mind and even change your mind back and forth about a hundred times if you want.Ē Thatís the usual approach.

    Do these things a few thousand times over the course of 18 years and you end up with a profoundly religiously literate child, well-prepared to engage the world and to make her own choices without fear.

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  3. #42

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    @aselvarial: I do understand this, from the bottom of my heart. I would be remiss, though, if I didn't mention one thing: I've heard the same sentiment from scores of parents over the years, and a sobering number of them were telling me because their child adopted some form of religious fundamentalism. It's by no means a foregone conclusion, but something to consider.

    It usually happens after a child hits a crisis of confidence as a teen, then religious peers say, "Do you know Jesus?" and offer the solution to all problems on a silver platter. Kids with no prior exposure to religion sometimes grasp for that straw, thinking there's magic behind the stained glass.

    A little religious knowledge and experience can serve as inoculation against the evangelists. My kids knew enough about the whole thing to know it wasn't magic, and it wasn't the answer to their problems.

  4. #43

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    Thanks for a lovely time, everyone!

  5. #44

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    Dale: My 8 year old has had this happen. I very lovely young girl with Jesus in her heart saw him crying one day, and said to him, don't you worry Jesus will make it better. So, last night, he very poignantly asked me (again) if I believe in God. And, I (again) replied no, that I do not (I am half-Jewish half-Catholic but not raised in religion). And, my son's response was well, if God can make everything better then it can't be a bad thing to believe in God. I might decide to believe in God. SIGH. I really had no answer for that . My husband ( who was raised Catholic but is non-practicing) said well, that would be o.k. you can believe whatever you want. My son suffers from anxiety and has had a tough road medically and I *personally* do not want him to use Jesus as a crutch to make him *feel all better*. Does your book address my feelings on this topic? Thank you!

  6. #45

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    The thing I worry MOST about in choosing homeschooling -- that my son, age 11, will form no strong friendships for the remainder of his childhood as a homeschooler. He had several good friends, even a "best" friend with whom he talked and laughed with often, before we moved to a smaller town and started homeschooling. The daily proximity to and interaction with peers in public/private schools naturally promotes friendship building, even for strong introverts like my son. His former friends now live hours away and have naturally drifted apart emotionally, for it's hard to keep long-distance friendships at this age. The homeschooling community meets less frequently than public/private school kids, obviously, and it's really hard for a shy kid to find the opportunity to slowly build friendships in extracurriculars. I find it is MUCH harder at age 11 than an earlier age. Tweens tend to have established friendships. How does a shy, introverted tween, often the only homeschooling kid on a community soccer team, swim class, or other short-term signed up activity break into a group and make new friends? Kids this age are too old for "playdates" with mere acquaintances.

    Academically, homeschool is really great for us. My husband is doing a stellar job and my kiddo is learning at a faster rate and more deeply than in public school. Socially, my fear is that homeschooling is very limiting. By taking away my kid's public school tribe, are we damaging him? Do we erroneously devalue the importance of frequent peer interactions in forming a sense of identity? Will he ever find another "best friend" again? I imagine many families return to traditional schooling because of this struggle.

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