Sunday, January 29, 2012

Resources for not-so-religiously-inclined families

Belonging to a religion enhances one's life in many different ways. If you were raised in a particular religion and are continuing that religious legacy with your own children, I think it's easy to take for granted the resources you have as a parent. You have an instant community of people who hold beliefs similar to your own, people who are raising their children in the same way. You have some sort of answer for many of your child's questions about life and death. You have a well-laid outline for teaching morality and ethics. And, you have an endless supply of religious texts, toys, and other goods that you can use to fill your home and to immerse your children in as they grow.

But what about non-religious families? Or families that might not be "non-religious," but haven't found a religious community that fits their needs? Raising your children outside of a religious community can sometimes feel like you are raising your children without the same manual that other parents have at their fingertips. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that religious parents have it easy and don't face challenges in parenting. I AM saying, however, that it sure makes things easier when you have a blueprint with which to build your family upon.

As we get ready to go to church on this Sunday morning, I'm very thankful that we've been able to find a community of like-minded individuals and families. We have somewhere to take our children, once a week, where principles and ideas that we believe in are taught in an age-appropriate manner. We have help raising our children. We're not on our own.

But all of that might change later this year when we move to Japan. We attend a Unitarian Universalist congregation and while all-English denominations might be scarce in Japan, UU congregations are even more rare. So I guess that's why I've been thinking about this topic a lot lately - the availability of support and resources for parents who don't fall in the majority.

I want to pass along some of the books, websites, ideas and dare I say, curriculums, that I might be using along the way. I'm still in the very early stages of looking for resources for myself and my children if, in fact, I am on a little island in the religious world when we move to Japan, but here are a couple of the most helpful things I've found thus far...

The Unitarian Universalist Association's Tapestry of Faith Program for Children found here

These are the same programs that are taught in UU churches, but many parents, religious and non-religious alike, will find that they can implement this curriculum at home despite varying belief systems. Of course, with my children being so young, I'm only looking at options for the K-1 grades, but curriculums for all grades are listed online with ALL of the materials. You can also find accompanying books online in their bookstore and on These programs introduce concepts of family, home, ethics, spirit, social service, and many humanist principles. I think both religious and non-religious families alike can find these curriculums a great resource in their parenting.

Our Whole Lives Lifespan Sexuality Education Curricula found here.

Since I'm already helping teach the OWL program at our church, I think I'm going to start teaching the K-1 OWL curriculum to Ila this fall. The actual curriculum isn't available online, but it is available for purchase. At Ila's age, the main focus of the program is simply to teach her about her body and how to be safe and healthy. It also helps parents teach their children about birth, babies, bodies and families. From the website: 
"Grounded in a holistic view of sexuality, Our Whole Lives not only provides facts about anatomy and human development, but also helps participants clarify their values, build interpersonal skills, and understand the spiritual, emotional and social aspects of sexuality."

We're all just doing the best we can, with what we've got. And I'm constantly trying to add to my toolbox.

Please share your own resources if you've found something that works well for your own family!

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