It’s almost that time of year again; when children return to school and parents breathe a sigh of relief that summer is over. One of my kiddos will be starting school this year but I worry about her future and how my religious beliefs will affect her in school. I am openly Pagan. I proudly wear my pentagram. I am not naïve enough to believe that I won’t face discrimination from the teachers or that my children won’t have some issues because of it.
I have my worries. Religious discrimination shaped my elementary school experience; Christian against Christian. I’m well aware that my parents objections to school activities affected me with my peers and the facility. My experience was made more challenging because of my parents and intolerant school staff!
A year ago I asked the following questions on CafeMom.
I’m asking this specifically with Pagans in mind, but everyone is welcome to answer.
How do you prepare your child for a religious melting pot environment? Do you teach your child to not talk about your religion? Are you openly Pagan or openly religious when you meet with your child’s teacher? Is religious honesty the best policy in the school system? Has your child experienced discrimination because of your beliefs? How do you protect your children from religious harassment?
All the problems I experienced I hope to avoid for my little ones. And I’m not sure how to do so. I don’t even know what to expect. I don’t feel discrimination is completely avoidable. I don’t feel hiding my beliefs is a proper example for my children. I don’t feel any shame in being Pagan. I don’t feel that being Pagan is a threat to my life or to my children where I live. In fact, being openly Pagan I feel is a duty that I am called to. To stand up and be counted and to serve as an example that not all Pagans are that strange sub-culture of Goth or hippies or whatever else the stereotype is.
Several of the mom’s responding to my CafeMom question pointed out that they teach their children not to discuss religion. I’m not sure how well kids obey that rule. I remember being asked in kindergarten what church I went to. Religion was like a screening tool; questioning if you were an okay person to hang with. One wrong answer and that spelt doom for the rest of school life.
My daughter is only five and she wouldn’t know what a Pagan is if someone asked her. She doesn’t know the names of other religions, or of the Gods. She does know what a church is as we attend a local UU. Her understanding of religion isn’t developed yet. If someone asked what it is that her mommy wears on her neck, she would answer “a star.” If someone asks her about spells in the midst of jumping to conclusions, they’re sure to get confused. She does spells; spelling out the letters of a word.
I haven’t made an effort to teach her my beliefs. I point out the moon to her and sit with her and admire it. I’m starting to teach her the phases of the moon, along with teaching her about the sun and the stars. I do put more importance on moon as I feel a special kind of wonder and awe for the moon. Her bedtime prayers are Pagan oriented, earth focused but not blatantly religious. No deities are mentioned in her prayers.
I want to protect her from the other children. I want her to experience a joyful and exciting time at school. I worry that if I teach her more about my practice that those special prayers and rituals could cause harm if repeated in a school setting. I want to find that balance between the extremes of saying nothing and teaching her as much as she can hold without her having the maturity to know that some things need not be discussed in school.
As some of the Pagan mom’s in the CafeMom question pointed out, they don’t teach their children religion so there is no risk of religious discrimination to their kids. I don’t understand that viewpoint. No matter how I raise my kids, they have to make a choice once they become an adult. But my beliefs informs my life, gives structure and meaning, keeps me rooted to the ground, helps me when I’m weak and is the guiding light I follow. Why would I not wish to share this with my children?
I don’t have any answers. Even a year after asking that question, my worries and doubts remain. This September the start of a new journey will begin. I know when that day comes for her to climb on board the bus and join the ranks of other children; that I will be offering prayers to Apollo so that she may find strength in her education and have the light of knowledge burning bright in her.