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Atheism And Christmas


Devondaisy
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I have had an e-mail from a parent regarding our Christmas activities. They are an Atheist household and so don't celebrate Christmas, and she is anxious to shield her daughter from the onslaught of Christmas. We are planning an activity morning where parents can join their child and join in with lots of Christmas activities, and she wants to know exactly what we are planning to do (actually I don't know myself yet!) Also she wants to miss our evening celebration where children sing songs for the parents (it's not a Nativity).

 

I just wondered if anyone else has come accross this and how you managed it? We will have lots of Christmas activities on offer in the run up to Christmas, and will be practicing our Christmas songs daily, so it will be hard to shield her entirely. Obviously she can miss the evening celebration and activity session if she chooses to which is absolutely fine. Also, we like to celebrate cultural diversity by celebrating other religious festivals during the year - can we still do that?

 

I've worked in settings where families have a variety of cultural beliefs and we have celebrated everything with everyone, and really enjoyed the input from families. This is a new one for me though.

 

Any advice would be appreciated, before I e-mail back, thanks!

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I have Pagan parents as well as catholic, muslim and hindi. just having mixed religions makes it difficult. I am not religious so do like the religious side. I try to make christmas a time for children to understand being as a family and that we look after each other and give presents to the ones we love. I have a normal family christmas at home but for pre-school try to do the bits that are none religious. we also have now got a father christmas hat that is green for father earth!!

it is difficult to make celebrations non religious, as each family celebrates in their own way. Our songs also are not Carols but songs about giving and sharing or the weather and looking after people.

We try to make it a time to appreciate one another.

Don't know if that helps some parents don't come to all the celebrations most do as it is none threatening of their beliefs

Good luck it is a bit of a mine field!!

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Could you not get around it by calling it a Winter Celebrations theme - that way you cover all of the different religious celebrations but without focussing in a 'religious' way . You can still have the activity day, covering crafts etc from a range of countries, and a concert but just not mentioning the relgiuos aspect - just the 'holiday/celebration' bits. It is hard - maybe a further conversation with the family as to how they do things at home - and what happens with friends/extended family with regard to christmas might be useful ? :o

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Whilst I think is important to respect every families' wishes it is also important for children to be aware of cultures and beliefs, as this is what shapes societies and individuals, whether we like it or not. I think that if I had an atheist parent who felt as strongly as this parent I would want a face to face discussion to come to some understanding. Her wishes would be similar to those families who are Jehovah's witnesses in this instance, but should other children miss out because of one or two children in a setting? Should we really be going out of our way to call things Winterfest or some such? I would try to work towards some kind of compromise. I can understand her wish to keep all the hype out of Christmas and I think many Christians feel exactly the same.

Could you perhaps explain about the requirements of the curriculum and that it includes knowledge and understanding about cultures and beliefs, and is something she will have to think hard about before her child goes to school. Does she only have a problem with Xianity or has she also withdrawn her child from such activities as Diwali and Eid, etc. ? I know my DIL would not wish her children to be celebrating Eid or Diwali, but would be OK if these were approached as 'this is how these children and their families who follow these religions celebrate Eid or Diwali' and there is a difference there. I think that celebrating everything willy nilly can trivialise people's beliefs if it is not done with knowledgeable understanding and respect :o I think the phrases' some people believe' and ' this is how .... celebrate' are very helpful.

At present RE is part of the school curriculum and we still have a requirement in schools to have an act of collective worship. Perhaps it is time to go the way of the French and have no religious teachings in state schools? I'm sure there will be many varying views around this. What a minefield!

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I have had something similar before...a christian family refused to allow their children to be involved in any muslim/hindu festivals...we were advised by our Lea that celebrations of festivals and beliefs was part of the curriculum and if this parent insisted on abstaining then they would be unable to access their funding and would have to pay for the pre-school place :o We have decided to celebrate all those festivals that are relevant to the children who attend our setting. This includes a nativity which all the childrren are invited to take part in, after all christmas is the christian celebration of the birth of christ.I guess whatever you do it has to be consistent...if you celebrate diwali then you celebrate christmas too if you have children from both religions.

I too use phrases like 'some people believe' or some people think...

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Guest ShelleyT

We have children who are withdrawn from all R.E. lessons and are not allowed to learn about Christmas. It is the right of the parent to withdraw their child, but it is also up to them to provide something for the children to do whilst the rest of the class are learning about religion. Our children go and sit in the library when necessary, and although this means they spend a lot of time there at Christmas time, that is the choice the parents have made. The parents also provided us with a list of things that the children can and can't do. For example, they can make a diwa lamp as long as we call it a clay pot. Hope that helps. It does make things complicated but why should the rest of the class miss out????

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I have had something similar before...a christian family refused to allow their children to be involved in any muslim/hindu festivals...we were advised by our Lea that celebrations of festivals and beliefs was part of the curriculum and if this parent insisted on abstaining then they would be unable to access their funding and would have to pay for the pre-school place :o We have decided to celebrate all those festivals that are relevant to the children who attend our setting. This includes a nativity which all the childrren are invited to take part in, after all christmas is the christian celebration of the birth of christ.I guess whatever you do it has to be consistent...if you celebrate diwali then you celebrate christmas too if you have children from both religions.

I too use phrases like 'some people believe' or some people think...

 

 

I too approach things this way. We certainly don't touch the commercial side of Christmas very much at all. However, we don't spend any more time on Christian festivities than we do any of the other beliefs which I think is only fair

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I agree with JaquieL that it is important that children learn about other people's cultures and beliefs as well as those of their own family. I think it is important that children are taught the stories/history behind our celebrations and not to make them aetheist festivals or 'catch all' Wintervals. Most cultural celebrations have a religious background that is fundamental to why the festival has evolved. We don't do a nativity play at my setting, but we definitely make children aware of the Christmas story, we have a crib scene and talk about why we celebrate Christmas as well as all the Santa stuff! We do the same with other festivals such as Eid and Diwali.

Would the parent in this situation be happy to opt out of the celebrations but willing for her child to learn the Christmas songs etc if she was assured there would be some balance at other times of the year and with other festivals? It is a really tricky one!

Beehive

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My setting has a group of Jehovah Witness children this year and we are scaling back our christmas craft and imagery and instead are focussing on family, giving, sharing and winter seasonal images. I, myself, am not a particularly religious person so this shift actually falls in line with my own feelings on how we should celibrate religious festivals in the setting. We do not currently celebrate any other religious festivals choosing instead to focus on things like Carnival or looking at countries as our basis e.g. Investigating India or Amazing Africa for our multicultural explorations.

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Thank you everyone for the replies.

 

I have now spoken to Mum at length, and am feeling a lot more comfortable. She is happy for her child to learn the songs and join in with Christmas activities, as long as she is not preached at. She also recognises our need to celebrate diversity and talk about other religions and ways of life, so that is fine.

 

However, the whole thing has made me think about balance, as we really do spend more time on Christian festivals than any other religion, as we don't have children of any other religion at pre-school. I'm wondering how to redress the balance, or whether it is better to concentrate on those festivals which are relevant to the children attending. Food for thought anyway!

 

Does anyone else go to Church with their local school? We have been invited to join the carol service, and a number of parents this year were disappointed that we didn't go to the harvest festival service.

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I think it is right that we celebrate different cultures. We looked at how Hindu's celebrate Diwali last week, and tried to explore similarities and differences, such as asking children when they wore special clothes, cleaned their homes, welcomed families and ate meals together, enjoyed fireworks, ate special sweets etc. We will also be having a nativity play even though we have a child of a parent who is a Jehovah's Witness. The parents thinks that the child is too young to take in too much. We will have another activity for the child to do when we are learning the songs so that the child is not directly involved. Similarly when we celebrate children's birthdays we don't directly involve the child.

 

On a similar vein, we were asked by a Christian parent to remove their child if we were going to celebrate Halloween. Happily we are not going to celebrate Halloween though we will read 'Pumpkin Soup', and Winnie the Witch's Pumpkin book, hammer golf tees into pumpkins etc. We decided to focus on bonfire night when we return but it is partly because I don't like Halloween, I think there are far better things to be sharing with children, and I don't like the over commericalization of it either (much like Christmas), I don't have any religious issues. As Jacqui says 'some people believe... and this is how.....' are good ways to help children learn knowledge and understanding of the world.

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Although parents do have a right to withdraw children from RE in school there are guidelines which can be found on page 27 of this document.

https://www.education.gov.uk/publications/e...-00114-2010.pdf

How this applies to EYFS I'm not sure, but I would think that an LA removing funding from a child because parents don't wish their child to take part in certain religious activities, would be on a very sticky wicket if they were challenged!

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Perhaps this is something that we require more information on...it certainly isn't clear where the boundries lie is it? schools may have guidance but to my knowledge i have never been given anything (other than the information posted!!) does anyone know of any further guidance that would help us out? i do know settings that are run by religious groups, these groups give out a very different message from my own setting and can be very biased towards their own religion. Our local baptist church would never consider teaching about other religions. :o

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As far as I know the guidance only covers statutory schooling because RE is a compulsory subject.

Within the EYFS we have to meet the statutory element of the EYFS curriculum but there is no compulsory RE element as such as this is pre statutory education:

 

PSED Children must be provided with experiences and support which will help them to develop a

positive sense of themselves and of others; respect for others; social skills; and a positive

disposition to learn. Providers must ensure support for children’s emotional well-being to help

them to know themselves and what they can do.

 

KUW Children must be supported in developing the knowledge, skills and understanding that

help them to make sense of the world. Their learning must be supported through offering

opportunities for them to use a range of tools safely; encounter creatures, people, plants and

objects in their natural environments and in real-life situations; undertake practical ‘experiments’;

and work with a range of materials.

 

From a unique child perspective I suppose our guidance is that we would be planning a curriculum/care which meets their needs whatever they are, including a families beliefs, like we would for a vegetarian for example.

 

Cx

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Further to those thoughts.....irrespective where children grow up and how mono-cultural that place is I firmly believe that they need to be shown how the wider society works, as wherever they live the chances are they will need to be more mobile in the future for work, life etc. So showing children that their lifestyle is not the only one by exposure to different ways of doing things creates a more rounded understanding of the wider world, not just their world. This I think is the essence of the statutory curiculum for EYFS as in previous post.

 

cx

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