As a Pagan parent, I tend to worry about the same things that my Christian counterparts worry about when it comes to sending our tender children off into the abrasive world on their own. I worry that they’ll be sitting in a public school classroom full of hooligans who won’t take their education as seriously as my children do. They’ll be surrounded by children who haven’t been taught to respect personal boundaries or how to settle differences with tolerance and acceptance. Let’s not forget the curriculum that defies all good sense when it comes to the values I want my children to know about things like sex and politics.
My children began their educations in a Montessori preschool and kindergarten. It was a non-religious private school. I rarely discuss my religion with outsiders and certainly, my children had not yet chosen a religion at that point in their lives. So it seemed to be a good fit for my family. As my oldest began to wrap up her time in kindergarten, I began to think about where she would continue her education.
The public school that my daughter had been assigned to, based on our residence, was the worst school in the district. It was an outdated K-5th grade elementary school, which was renowned for poor performance and bad test scores. As a result, the State, County and City reduced the funds budgeted to this school creating a bigger problem with each passing year.
The next option that I considered was home schooling. That idea was a short lived one. I know that one of the biggest objections to home schooling is the apparent lack of social interaction that the student receives. I think that it’s the lamest reason ever to not home school your child. My reason was much better than that. Quite simply, I didn’t want to unravel all the hard work that had been spent preparing their budding little minds for absorbency of information beyond my realm of understanding. At that time, I wasn’t very confident in my ability to teach.
The final option, and to me the scariest, was private school. All of the private schools in our community were religious and you can be sure that, even in a place as diverse as the San Francisco Bay Area, none of them were Pagan. We had decided very early on that religion would not be stuffed down the kids’ throats and that any spiritual teaching that we did would emphasize good moral values and tolerance of multiple religious beliefs. We always taught them that their path will be lit when they’re ready to see it, whether it’s Paganism, Christianity, Buddhism or anything other ism for that matter.
Of course, there would be conflicts in our beliefs versus those of a Christian school. I mean, in principle it’s all the same; don’t kill people, don’t steal, lie or cheat, and whatever you do – try not to make your parents look like fools. I reasoned that we would need to supplement whatever they were learning in public school by infusing our own beliefs and values, why wouldn’t a Christian education be any different?
On the way in on my daughter’s first day (and many times since then) I told her “Think outside the box. They’re going to tell you some things that I don’t believe. I’ll let you know what I think about it, what other religions think about it and what people in other countries think about it. Then, you can take the idea that makes the most sense to you inside your head and make it your own belief.” Both children understood it then and continue to use it today. Now, one is in the 7th grade and one is in the 8th. Both are open minded about what they learn and are well versed in a couple of different theories when something controversial comes home. Science Fair is always a fun time of year, filled with debate and exploration. I’m happy with the way things are turning out.