December 9, 2010

Have a Little Faith...?

Version 1.0 has her first Christmas concert next week. The preschool sent home a notice telling us that the kids would all be dressed as angels and would each carry an LED tealight and march in procession at the Catholic church. I felt uneasy with this.

First, we are not Catholic, nor are we committed to any particular faith or denomination. In fact, we do not subscribe to organised religion in any way. That's our choice, for better or worse. While I fully respect anyone's right to choose, I don't want my daughter or son indoctrinated in any direction until they are old enough to understand what they are hearing and can make informed choices one way or the other. I understand we are all influenced by the way we are brought up and can never be completely impartial, but this is the way we have chosen and that's just that (read: I'm not interested in a debate here around whether we should or should not be following any prescribed faith, so save that for somewhere else).

While the preschool is a Montessori, and Maria Montessori was Catholic and built Catholic teachings into her framework for education, it's at the discretion of the teacher as to how much is built into the curriculum  or the practices. Our particular school's teacher is indeed Catholic but does not introduce religion into the teachings, other than when she is explaining a Christian (or other) holiday, and to say thanks when they have snack. I have asked for Version 1.0 to be allowed to do something else when anything faith-based is introduced, and the school has been absolutely fine with that.

The point is, my daughter is not even three years old yet. Anything she hears, particularly in a structured environment such as her preschool, she takes as (mind the pun) gospel. She's not old enough to think critically about what she hears and make decisions about it. So, if she comes home praying and talking about Jesus, I'm going to have a hard time helping her unlearn that. Regardless of how you may feel about that, it is our choice not to have our children indoctrinated. This should be completely acceptable. She may choose later in life to adopt a faith and that is her prerogative. But I won't teach her something I don't believe in.

So, the Christmas concert. Yes, it's just Christmas carols and tealights and I am sure it's going to be really damned cute. But upon further investigation, I have learned there will be readings of scripture and some other activities lead by the church. I feel like a fraud staying to hear these words but I also don't want to rob my daughter of the experience to participate in these events. I just can't kick the uneasy feeling I have of total misalignment with what we believe.

I have had friends who have stated that they participated in faith-based activities when young and their own beliefs weren't affected, and I guess that is true, but isn't it kind of wrong to have one foot in each camp? Can I really show up at a church when I feel such discomfort with my daughter listening to all the things that are just not part of our own family culture when she's too young to understand the bigger picture? She's just old enough to absorb everything but the explanations may be too confusing for her if and when she asks.

Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? Blowing up the issue? All I know is it's got my stomach in knots and I need someone to set me straight and suggest an approach. I guess it's all about allowing her to have experiences?
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