The boys and I discuss religion often, sometimes through a historical lens but more often in a comparative sense. We may explore the names used for the divine in different faiths or compare their sacred stories. Through their formal religious education classes at church, they’ve spent the last two years learning about world religions, exploring their beliefs, creation stories, and holy days. Through our history studies, they’ve been formally introduced to the origins of these belief systems and how their spread affects history. Religious studies pervade our homeschooling, whether we’re reading about a news event and discussing which of the seven principles relate or pondering quantum physics and the origins of the universe.
I’ve explored Buddhism a bit, and the phrase “loving kindness” enters my language often. Letting go of attachments, inviting change into our lives, being in the present moment: these are principles that permeate my conversations with them. They’ve seen me read Thich Nhat Hanh and the works of others with a Buddhist look at the world. And they know of my attempts at meditation. Eastern belief systems speak to my heart, and Buddhism is the one they’ve heard the most about from me.
And now I’ve brought chant into our home. I’ve taken a shine to chant and Kirtan lately, along with a desire to know more about Hindu spirituality (love that eastern spirituality), and the boys’ exposure to Krishna Das, Mike Cohen, Russill Paul, and others has been increasing by the day. My boys are accustomed to my approach to my learning: stumble over something fascinating, read endlessly about it, and experience it as fully as possible. It’s generally a year-long process for me, abating once I’ve incorporated the idea into my life and can reach for something new. Often the interest stems from raising them. In the past I’ve devoured breastfeeding textbooks (and became a La Leche League leader about 7 years ago), studied the needs and characteristics of gifted children (and then homeschooling gifted children), and learned to knit (need a hat, anyone?). As I’ve assimilated these into my life, I can leave behind the serious, almost obsessive study of the interest as they become part of me.
As they grow older, I find my interests broadening. Chant is the most recent of these passions, so I’m reading on chant, listening to chant, asking questions to those in the know, and learning the words and meaning behind the mantras. I’m in the zone, and my older sees that. I’m not, however, becoming a Hindu, which was his next question. I’m exploring a path up the mountain, and as a UU, I see many paths to one reality. I’m finding what works for me, what puts me in contact with a greater reality and deeper truth. While that’s a bit harder to explain to him than another trip to the yarn store to find just the right poncho pattern, the drive behind it is similar.
I dive in. So do my boys. Over the years, my older’s embraced trucks, space, electricity, weather, chemistry, and more, taking out scores (really) of books on the pet subject, seeking connections to his passion in every part of his world, and allowing the interest to consume him. His younger brother is no different, as the volume of discussion on World War II for the past several months would suggest. While he largely moves from one historical period to the next, he manages to incorporate a good deal of culture along the way. In this way, we’re quite similar. We devour information and experience.
So, no, I explain. We weren’t “more Buddhist” for the past year. I incorporated some Buddhist thinking into my life and therefore into their experience. Similarly, their exposure to chant is a casuality of my fascination in the subject. So far, they’ve been fairly patient, although my younger complains that the chants get stuck in his head (no problem, I told him). They’re interested in what the words mean, and both boys enjoy the rhythms of the drumming on some of the CDs. Similarly, I’ve learned quite a bit about Pearl Harbor from my younger and chemistry and explosives from my older. I take what works for me and leave the rest.
And that’s what I imagine they’ll do with my current learning binge. The music is there, I freely share information, whether asked or not. This is my quest, not theirs, but they’re welcome to learn with me, taking what they want and leaving the rest. Now that’s religious education.