First, we've been disappointed with our children's school because of the way they have approached the holidays. Suffice it to say that their idea of teaching about multiple cultures is to teach kids how different countries celebrate Christmas. Our kids' holiday programs focused on Christmas and my son's program had a song about Mary & Baby Jesus. This would be fine if they also taught about other religious holidays so that the kids (and some parents) would understand that not everyone in the world believes exactly the same things that they do. There is a young Sikh boy in my son's class who does not celebrate Christmas and did not take part in the holiday program. It is appalling that a child's own school excludes him and doesn't seem to have regrets.
Second, during the last week of school, my daughter came home with a thoughtful question. Her class had been discussing Christmas and one of the children said that everybody believes that Jesus was born on Christmas and that is why they celebrate, and the teacher did not correct the child. So, my daughter wanted to know why we celebrate Christmas if we don't believe in Jesus. A valid question considering the fact that her teacher led the class to believe this was true.
Third, my son also came home during the last week of school and wanted to talk to us about something. First, I should say that my son has always been open about the fact that our family does not believe in any gods. My daughter is more quiet about it because she is worried about the repercussions from her friends. Until now, my son has not had a problem with peers. (Other than the one little boy who started a Bible study on the playground in an attempt to convert him and wrote him a note with a copy of the sinner's prayer. This hasn't really been a problem, though. It has actually made from some great discussions.) However, one day our son came home from school and told my husband and I that another little boy was calling him names because he doesn't believe in god. At the time, he couldn't think of what the names were. The next day, he came home and told us the names this little boy was calling him were Jew and Atheist. Clearly, this little boy didn't know what he was talking about when calling my son a Jew...kind of makes you wonder what's being said in his house. My son tried to explain to him that Jewish people believe in the same god that Christians do...they just don't believe that Jesus was his son. The little boy didn't want to listen to my son and went on calling him names. I guess it's hard to teach children that it's OK for people to be different when the teachers won't even acknowledge that fact.
Lastly, our bookworm daughter had been reading A Solstice Tree for Jenny earlier in the season. I had bought it when our kids were young along with a collection of various holiday books, but this was the first year she was able to read it on her own. After she read the book, she was thrilled about the idea of a solstice tree and wanted us to get one. She loved the idea of making our own ornaments and giving gifts to charity. What a thrill that is for a parent :).
Thus, after all of these separate occurrences, we decided that we'd have a solstice celebration this year. We wanted to teach our kids about the reasons ancient people began celebrating at this time of year and also about what we believe. My son had never heard the word atheist until this month. We've worked hard to teach our kids about many different belief systems and hadn't taught them about what we do believe. I guess I didn't want to indoctrinate them like religious people indoctrinate their kids. Our kids have repeatedly been advised that they don't need to automatically believe what we believe....they need to look at all the evidence and make their own decisions. But, how are they going to know if they agree with us, if we don't teach them what we believe and why we believe it?
In my next post, I'll discuss how we celebrated solstice and why we will also celebrate Christmas. It was a great experience and we will definitely continue our new tradition in the future.