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I am Christian (though admittedly, liberally so) while my husband is Agnostic. He agrees that it is appropriate for our child to receive some education in my faith, but we have been unable to find a Church community in our area that we both feel comfortable regularly taking our child to as most of them would not teach tolerance of, and respect for my husband's beliefs (we've tried, we are in a VERY conservative area).

For this reason, we are not attending church regularly so teaching my daughter about my faith and beliefs is largely up to me. I want her to know about Christianity (as well as other faiths for that matter) and to teach her how to think about faith, belief and values that allows her room for some choice when she is older. Of course I hope my example will also have a positive impact, but I do specifically feel she needs to know that stories and traditions that make up part of her heritage (and a large part of our culture) in both an academic (most Sunday School Curricula don't seem all that "academic" to me) and "fun" way.

What kinds of things should I consider when choosing books, videos, games and activities to use with her while teaching her values both my husband and I share as well as the more faith-based values only I hold to?

Update Due to "questions" asked about why teach it then? I thought this further clarification was needed. I will reiterate the wish for an "academic" look. This isn't about discovering faith, it is about having a relevant literary background. I believe knowledge is key in understanding. This relates to building empathy toward others and combating prejudice based in ignorance. Knowledge can be used to defeat fear mongering against "the other" whoever that "other" may be. I believe in also exposing her to other world religions, but I believe in starting with what you know best (as a teacher). She has even joined in with friends for Hanukkah this year, and knows a little about Divaali. We both have learning to do in regard to non-Christian religions. As a scientist, (Botany) I believe in evolution and can also explain this standpoint easily. I want her to know The Bible well - whatever her choice about it. Eventually, I intend to have her read at least some of the Koran as well. When you know some of the basics, it is a lot more difficult to be overly judgmental about those that believe differently than you and a lot easier to find the commonalities as well as easier to make an informed decision about what you accept yourself.

Finally, she is moving into a study of Medieval Europe. She is a huge History connoisseur and just can't get enough. At six, she can rattle off names of Greek Philosophers, Roman Emperors, describe Myths from both traditions as well as from Babylon, Egypt, China and Japan. She can't necessarily remember every date and every name, but she can offer a surprising amount of information from any Human History between the first farmers to the Fall of Rome. Ancient India and China have not been forgotten in our studies either. To fully grasp the upcoming period in her history studies, she has to have some understanding of the basics of Christianity and its story and will also need to gain some understanding of Early Islam as well. "Skipping it" until she is an adult is not realistic even if I wasn't Christian myself if she is to be well-informed in the subject she loves most, History.

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I love this question! I might nearly be that husband - science is what I believe in, and I am conflicted with my wife's liberal Christianity and the rather conservative country we live in. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jan 25 '13 at 20:18
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Hard to answer this since religion is really a personal thing. I'm an atheist, but find theology a fascinating world. Perhaps that's one approach: world religions. Or if you want to just focus on Christianity, there's plenty of corporations that produce Sunday-school curriculums. Perhaps look through them to find one that fits your personal preferences. –  DA01 Jan 26 '13 at 3:05
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I don't understand what one black parent and one latino parent has to do with Christianity... or wait... were you talking about a different kind of mixed marriage? (= –  monsto Jan 26 '13 at 8:18
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Why does the "church community" need to know anything about your husband? If he chooses not to go then why do they care? You know what... I was going to post this as an answer but then I realized that even if it's none of their business, if it's a 'conservative' enough area then they'll make it their business. –  monsto Jan 26 '13 at 8:21
    
Yea see that's ridic. Whenever I go to Christian Days (xmas, easter, etc) with the wiff, people know me and they say hi and they kind of slyly say "we've missed you!" but it's like walking thru Sears . . . nobody really bothers me about it. "Do unto others" right? –  monsto Jan 28 '13 at 12:13

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First and foremost, make sure your husband is okay with whatever you share. Even if you are certain he won't object, I suggest you still check with him, if only to keep him feeling like he has a say.

My wife and I are in a similar position: she is Christian, and I am decidedly not.

Unlike you, my wife has belonged to her church for her entire life, so she has resources available that may not be an option to you. However, you mentioned that you don't feel comfortable taking your daughter to any of the local churches on a regular basis... but how would you feel about taking her to selected events?

My wife's Church has various family- and children-oriented special activities scheduled throughout the year, ranging from pot-luck dinners and chili cook-offs to children olympic-style events and "bible camp". Some of those might be good introductions to the community aspect of Christianity, and frequently (based off of my admittedly limited exposure), the focus on the activity precludes the more heavy-handed messages that may demonstrate intolerance.

Selected holiday services may be an option, as well. I can't say I've ever attended a Christmas service, but perhaps that might be focused enough that you could find a church you were comfortable enough bringing your daughter to see what its all about.

Be sure to make sure that you clearly communicate to her that she can ask you whatever questions she might have.

Ideally, the materials you would use would be the ones you already use, if any. If there are books (including your own copy of the bible), videos, activities, etc. that you use, even occasionally, share them with your daughter. I wouldn't put too much faith (if you'll pardon the pun!) on books, videos, or activities designed to "teach" a specific faith to a child. Especially a game!

The best way to teach a faith while leaving room for open discussion, and informed decision by your child, is to simply model what it means to you. This may mean that you should become more active about the things you believe, but which you may have set aside for various reasons.

By way of the example, I have started performing the blessings and the ceremony of the lighting of our menorah, so that my son will grow up with those being a part of our family traditions, even though I am not a practicing member of the Jewish faith (my parents were both raised Jewish, though, and self-identify as such).

Similarly, I plan on taking my son to my "church" (parks and areas of unspoiled wilderness) when he's older, and explaining why those locations are so important to me.

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why not leave it to God? Don't teach her, let her make her own mind up as she grows and learns.

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In order to make up your mind, you need exposure. Religious exposure typically comes at the ages when the kids don't really understand it, would choose to sleep in, and would only go just to get the donuts. –  monsto Jan 26 '13 at 8:23

Go back in time to the situation when you decided to marry someone who doesn't belong to your faith.

Quite obviously there were some values that you both shared and valued more than the differences in your faith. That set of shared values should be the foundation your child grows up with.

Everything else is secondary, just as it was secondary when you got together.

Avoid conflict especially if the child is not even a teenager yet. Encourage the child to think things on their own, and acknowledge that there is still some area of knowledge where humans aren't very sure of or differ in opinions. Teaching the child to wade thru disagreements, by focussing on the commonality, is where the focus should be.

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Perhaps adding to this is the reason why you have those values, as certainly a child will ask. Which reason is most credible? Being able to justify your values based on well-founded reasoning is a good way of instilling good values and helping the child be adaptable to new situations. –  Dave Clarke Jan 28 '13 at 7:52
    
For you, as the Christian, I would look at what the whole message of the cross was, and teach that: People do bad things to you. People need forgiven by you. Love what is right, fair, and just. Avoid greed, hate, etc... Do to others what you want them to do to you. I suspect there is little to disagree there, even among many religions. The specifics of the christian faith (cross, creation, etc...) can be added at a later date when the young adult is better able to choose what they want to believe (but their training will embody the principals either way). –  gahooa Feb 1 '13 at 3:58

I'm surprised no one has yet to mention Unitarian Universalism.

http://www.uua.org

It's a faith that celebrates all faiths, practices acceptance and tolerance of all people and educates on many religious facets. They hold ceremonies influenced by multiple religions.

Having a 7 and 3 year old, I'm kind of struggling with similar questions. I was born to a family descending from Catholic, Protestant and Jewish grandparents. I was raised Catholic as a young child but basically stopped following early in young adulthood. I'm now atheist. However, as a family we did continue to be involved with the original church community for the community aspect of it. I value that more than anything else from it.

Point being, educating your children on the many religions is far more important than trying to indoctrinate them into one. That's the path to understanding, tolerance and peace between people. I may be a non believer but I respect those who are not. They are welcome to believe what they want, and I won't stop them, and as long as they aren't doing anything to my detriment than it matters not to me. My plan is to help my child learn about religion and let them decide what they want to believe. Doing anything else would undermine the greatest skill I want them to have, the power and knowledge to think and choose for themselves instead of blindly following in their predecessors footsteps because that was all they knew.

Then of course there's always http://skeptics.stackexchange.com

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Ha! That's funny. This is the one church in our area that felt warm and welcoming. Funny you should link it here. No kids though so no Sunday school program or anything. We do attend there on occasion as a threesome - I wish we were in an area with a larger congregation. We loved the one we went to closer to the city where there were more people and a "family" congregation. –  balanced mama Jan 30 '13 at 2:55

There are a lot of resources out there to help (including your Bible), online communities for ideas (though I don't use those much) and you can also purchase Sunday School curriculum if desired. However, I want a more academic kind of an outlook than most "Sunday School Curricula" offer.

Consideration Number 1 - Does the Resource Match with the Beliefs Both Myself and My Husband Feel she Should be exposed to and are appropriate for her developmental stage?

When she was a toddler, she needed stories, not debates. By the time she is in High School, she will need to be exposed to "both sides of the coin." She will also be ready to engage in thoughtful discussion by then so she will be ready for much more sophistication.

There are a lot of Children's anthologies of the most well-known and loved Bible Stories available. I have also used a Children's Bible with Alice, but had to be pretty picky about which one I chose. We did get the opportunity to visit the Skirball Center in Los Angeles (A Jewish Cultural Center there) a few years ago to see the Noah's Arc Exhibits for children. Gorgeous and fun btw.

Once she hit five, she was ready for something a bit "older." It was about this time, I discovered Jim Weiss. He Makes Audio tracks's with renditions of stories made for kids (even does Sherlock Holmes and Shakespeare among others). He has a wonderful collection of stories from the Bible she found engaging. We've enjoyed a few of his collections at this point.

Also at about five, we watched quite a few of the Veggie Tales series. They are funny, are on a kid's level and don't get judgmental about those in other faiths (within the episodes). She has a couple of favorites she watches again and again, but her interest in these is fading as she matures even further. I'm not sure what materials I will find for the next age other than my copy of The Bible, we'll see what unfolds in my "quest."

Although not religious in its own right, The Chronicles of Narnia are a wonderful set of stories, that also introduce Christian Themes. As she reads at a fifth grade level, she has begun reading this series of books. At some point, I will introduce her to the "matching" stories in The Bible and show her the portions considered to be allegory for the parallels they are. I have not decided yet when or how I will go about doing that.

More recently, I have loved checking out various Great Courses from the library on a variety of topics. The company is very picky about choosing some of the best college professors in their field and presenting only the best of the best. I have found quite a few of their history collection engaging and enlightening. I look forward to checking out some of the courses more related to world religions and philosophy and sharing these with my daughter when she is ready.

Does What I am offering her teach that Values Do Not Stem From One's Religion Alone and Should not Be entirely Dictated by One's Religion. I believe A "Thinker" Considers Ethical Dilemmas Through a prism of Values. These Values may be Colored by Religious Creed, but Values Can Be and Are not Dependent on Religion? If it teaches otherwise, don't even pick it up.

So far, I have approached a Values education in my home mostly through the model we set, rules we choose to employ and how we enforce them, and regular "family nights" with ethics and values as a main topic. For these nights we use activities from the following books:

  1. "10-Minute Life Lessons for Kids" for activities to do once per month or so on family night before we play games together. It isn't at all religious or "Christian" but the activities are about different values parents commonly wish to instill in their children no matter what their religion or belief system.

  2. On another week of the month we read a short piece from another book called, "E is for Ethics" and discuss the questions related to the reading as a family. It is aimed at helping young children learn to think through ethical dilemmas.

  3. Along the same lines, we read one of Aesop's Fables on the other two weeks of the month and all guess at what the moral of the story might be before the reader reads out the "official" moral. We then re-tell the story in a "modern" way together. As she gets older, my daughter has been more and more involved in making up the "modern" versions.

  4. We have discussed an "inner voice," "Conscience," "Jiminy Cricket," kind of a inner helper that sometimes offers intuition about the really tough choices. I believe, as do others, this inner voice comes from God and she knows that. She also knows her Dad attributes it to a sort of shared energy or power that is more spiritual, but NOT God.

I believe being this explicit about things sets her up to be a child that knows vocabulary associated with ethical decision making and that allows her to separate this from religion. There are plenty of religious people that are not ethical and plenty of non-religious people who are ethical. Of course vice versa is also true and it is important to get past stereotyping based on adherence to a specific faith.

Eventually, I Want her To be Well Versed in the History of the Rise of Christianity. The Good influences and The Bad.

I have taken a couple of college-level courses about religion, and The Bible itself which I feel helps and will continue to help with this a lot. It puts the whole thing in it's proper historical context when you do this and allows the adult to learn a bit more about the politics that also shaped what The Bible is today. The more knowledgeable you are as a teacher, the broader your view when teaching things to your kids. I found OT, Comparative Religions and NT (New Testament) incredibly eye-opening and loved every minute of all three courses.

There is a Certain Amount of What Any Believer Does That. . . will come across to that believer's children not matter what the believer does. If I never explicitly taught my daughter anything, she would still come away from growing up with me and with her Dad with a set of values and beliefs about the world whether we liked them or not. I know that, and acknowledge it often.

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It is encouraging to see someone who's really thinking about this objectively and not allowing their own preconceptions and history (regardless of what those are) to influence what they teach their children. The world needs more parents like you. –  Peter Feb 4 '13 at 17:52

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