This post is a transcript of part of my podcast, Episode 102: Sharing Our Values and Beliefs With Our Unschooled Children. I edited my original words to make them flow better. I reordered some of them, cut out repetitions, and made some small additions so that my thoughts are easier to follow. (Unfortunately, words never fall from my lips in a perfect manner when I’m podcasting!)
I don’t think it matters whether we have a faith or not, whether we are religious or not, I think this conversation is open to everybody. Everyone believes in something. Even if we don’t believe in God, we still have values that affect all aspects of our lives.
Is it okay to make a deliberate effort to pass on our values and beliefs to our unschooled children? I have heard some unschoolers say that they don’t think it’s right to do this. They want to give their children the freedom to make up their own minds about everything. They don’t want to influence their beliefs.
I do agree that children should be free to believe what they want. The problem is that, even if our kids don’t listen to us, they’re going to listen to a lot of other voices out there in the world. Those voices belong to people who don’t love and care about our kids in the same way we do. Also, if we truly believe in something, if it is the truth for us, then surely we would like our children to adopt that belief? I don’t think there’s anything wrong in sharing our beliefs with our kids and hoping that they’ll become the truth for them as well.
So what is the best way for us to pass on what we believe? Should we make our kids live by our values and beliefs? What if certain actions and commitments are required? Should we make rules which our kids have to abide by? Or maybe making rules isn’t the way to go? Could our example be more important?
Our kids have to see us live our values and beliefs. If they don’t, they’ll question how important those values are to us. What we believe has to spill over into our actions, into our decisions, into our speech. Our kids observe what we do. They listen to our words. If we are afraid to talk about our beliefs to our children, maybe they will assume that we aren’t sure about our beliefs after all. Perhaps they are not part of who we really are. Yes, our beliefs and values have to be visible if we want to pass them on.
Many of you probably know we are a Catholic family. Our kids see us going to Mass on Sundays. They see us praying for people who need help. We read spiritual books together. We make decisions based on our beliefs. Everything that happens to us is filtered through our Catholic faith. We talk about religion naturally in our conversations. (Those conversations don’t run along the lines of “This is what you should believe” and “This is what you should do.”)
Sometimes people ask me what would happen if our kids refused to go to Mass with us on Sundays and I really don’t know the answer to that question because I can’t remember one single occasion when my children grumbled about Mass and said they didn’t want to go. Going to Mass is just what we do.
I think that living our faith, living our belief system, has to become like breathing. It’s exactly the same as learning. We don’t have battles over learning because everyone learns. It’s a family affair. It’s something we all do. It’s something we enjoy. It’s something which is part of our lives, which is, as I said, as natural as breathing. And that is what our faith is like in our family. It’s just part of our lives. Of course, it’s a very important part. It’s an inseparable part of everything else.
I haven’t had to make any rules and say such things as “You have to get out of bed (at a particular time) to go to Mass. You have to dress modestly. You have to do this. You have to do that.” There is no need to say anything. My kids choose to do all these things for themselves. Why? I guess they have picked up things from us. We are a very connected family. What is important to us has become important to our children.
Will our children always have the same beliefs as us? Or will they go out there into the bigger world and be influenced by other people? Will they feel they want to do something different from us? Well, I guess there’s always that chance and we’d have to accept that if it happens. But I also feel that even if kids do go along a different pathway and explore – which might be good because it could eventually strengthen their faith – at times of trouble they will return to their roots. Our faith is all wrapped up in family, love, and acceptance. It’s where we go when we are in trouble. It gives us comfort. It gives us joy. And when our kids get into situations where they need that love, that connectedness, that joy, perhaps they will return. Anyway, that might be in the future. Who knows? But today, I’m talking about how things are right now.
In Episode 102, we were talking about jeans. Our attitude to jeans wearing may be one of personal choice. We might like jeans or we may not. We all have different preferences for different fashions. Each might be equally acceptable. Everyone has her own favourite things to wear.
But what if our attitude to wearing jeans is tied up with our beliefs? A parent might say to a daughter, “You can’t wear jeans because I believe they are immodest clothing.” Or they could say, “You can’t wear jeans because I believe they are clothing for men, not women. Men should be men. Women should be women.” Yes, jeans can become part of some people’s belief systems.
We might not make rules about things in general. However, we might think we’re justified in making a rule about a particular issue because it is of great importance to us. It is fundamental to our belief system. But I still don’t think we have the right to make that rule. And more importantly, I don’t think the rule will be very effective. Perhaps it will actually drive our children away from us. It will be a barrier between us. It will cut off communication so that we’ll have no chance of passing on our beliefs. Maybe it’s much better to build up a relationship where we can discuss these things without criticising, one where we listen and are accepting.
At this point in my podcast, I shared a story, The Jeans-Wearing Rule, from one of my older blogs to illustrate a few of the points I was talking about. It’s a story about clothes, values, adult peer pressure and rules.
After reading the story aloud in my podcast, I added some comments about it. I shall publish the story, together with the comments, in a separate post.
Since recording this podcast, I’ve been pondering the question: Why haven’t any of my kids ever grumbled about going to Mass? Even though I don’t have any definite answers, I could share some thoughts in another post. Are you interested? Perhaps you have some ideas of your own. If so, I’d love to hear them.