I've noticed two overarching styles of preparing Christian students to engage with the world around them. One approach seems primarily inward-focused, seeking to keep children from non-Christian ideas and teaching them to defend their faith and know how to answer critics. This approach can carry a lot of good, but I don't think it encompasses all we're called to do as Christian parents.
The other approach seems more outward-focused. It stems from the fact that we are not merely called to hold down the fort of Christianity, but also to go out to the ends of the earth and spread Christ's love through the world. We are called to raise our children to be ambassadors for Christ in the world (2 Corinthians 5:20).
To do that, I believe we must both teach our children answers to critics' questions and teach them how to wisely and lovingly engage with the critics themselves. We don't want to simply beat non-Christians in debates; we want to listen to them and treat them as people made in God's image.
Even when we ultimately disagree, I believe we can learn from people who believe and live differently than we do – and share Christ's love for them in the process.
We want to raise up young adults who are not afraid of non-Christians. I don't think this can come from a purely defensive approach.
Engaging with Other Faiths
One way this expresses itself in Sonlight's curriculum is through our conviction that education should not ignore ideas that conflict with a Christian worldview, but that it should gradually help children engage with those ideas.
Taking this a step further, we at Sonlight believe that the best way for children to engage challenging ideas is within the home, under their parents' guidance.
Your children will encounter secular and anti-Christian ideas someday—surely by the time they are young adults. So here's the question I think we all need to ask:
Would you rather be your children's guide as they gradually encounter challenging ideas? Or would you rather they face these ideas for the first time when they're out on their own, just hoping their friends and/or unknown teachers will guide them wisely then?
I believe it is far better for Christian parents to prepare their children to engage such ideas within the home, than to simply hope they will learn such skills from others.
Sonlight Helps You Discuss Other Religions
Fortunately, Sonlight gives you the tools to guide your children. Through the books you read together and the guidance in the Instructor's Guides, Sonlight opens the door for natural, meaningful conversations with your children right from the start. One long-time Sonlight mom shared her experience:
"Sonlight helped me teach my children to think. The books are chosen to spark conversations you might not otherwise think of having. We tackled tough subjects that I am not sure are covered in other curriculums, such as racism and prejudice, other religions and cultures, fear, idol worship, parent/child interaction, and communication to name a few. And we didn't just talk about the topic and check it off the list. We read a book that made us feel we were in the situation and allowed us to really dig deep into our thoughts and emotions and use scripture to evaluate them.
"Because of the books Sonlight chose – ones that other curriculums often steer clear of – I was confident my children could think for themselves and that they knew what and why they believed. Also, that they had already thought about many of the things they would be encountering away from home."Tonya
If this idea intrigues you, I highly suggest you read Why Sonlight Uses Certain Books that Some Homeschoolers Won't Touch. (I think an even better title for this article might be How to Strengthen Your Child's Spiritual Immune System.)
Even as Sonlight helps you give your children a firm foundation in a Christian worldview, we also help you teach your children about other cultures, beliefs and ideas. Books about other parts of the world help your children see that people might live differently than we do, but that they are still intelligent people just like us, who need Jesus' love and salvation just as much as we do. This helps prepare students for life once they leave your home.
Two other long-time Sonlight moms shared:
"After having used Sonlight for Kindergarten through 12th grade, my son is a critical thinker and can have a deep intelligent conversation with anyone, even with others whose beliefs do not line up with his. He knows what he believes and WHY! (Thank you, Sonlight!)"Barbara W
"My children learned to read, think and communicate. Once they can do that, they can face any type of situation, from college to job and beyond."Sunflower
Five of the B children hang out and study together. Their mom Michelle writes: "We see the benefits of homeschooling with Sonlight: mature, critical-thinking young adults with an ability to engage the world around them."
Equipping Children to Do God's Will
The point of all this comes back to Sonlight's overarching educational goal: to help parents raise up children equipped to do whatever God calls them to do. That directs everything we do in our curriculum. We believe it entails excellent academic preparation, a firm foundation in Scripture, and helping children develop a heart for the world. We also believe that by the time children leave the nest, they must be prepared to wisely and lovingly engage with people who believe things contrary to their own worldview.
Is this an important value to you as well? I know it can sound a bit scary, but God has equipped you to teach your children. You CAN guide them well, and Sonlight will walk with you each step of the way throughout their education. Our children ultimately belong to God, and we pray that God draws them to Himself, preparing them to be ambassadors for Christ in this world that He loves so much.
A Sonlight mom wrote last month that her daughter's study of different religions is "giving her great inner conviction." Praise God! Here is the longer story:
"I continue to be incredibly impressed and excited every day about what my 11-year-old daughter is studying [in HBL F: Eastern Hemisphere]. These past two weeks we have been studying Islam verses Christianity in history, while also reading a fiction book about a woman surviving life in a harem. In [Bible] we are studying Lee Strobel's book about the evidence for Christ. As we wade through these waters, I get a little skittish wondering if teaching my daughter about Islam, Muhammad and the passion of that faith will lean her away from what I know to be true. I know she has to make her own decision one day, but of course as her mom, I want her on truth's side. I was so grateful for all of the evidence Sonlight added in the parent's notes, and for bravely including all of the books to show all sides of the religious issues in the Middle East.
"The impact on my daughter surfaced during a conversation we were having. I asked her point blank, 'How do you know that the Christ we follow is the one to follow, and that he is the Son of God?' She said, 'Because Muhammad is dead and Jesus is alive.' Yeah!
"I really do believe that her studying the different religions of the Eastern Hemisphere this year is giving her great inner conviction. Also, the Mother Theresa book opened her eyes on how to treat people of different faiths. It's all so timely because we are rubbing shoulders more with different religions, especially as a mosque has moved into our little mid-America suburb."bobbie100
This is exactly why we study different religions in Sonlight. We want to help students know why they believe what they do, and to prepare them to interact with people of different faiths.
We certainly don't portray other religions as truth. Instead, we study them so that when we meet someone who is Muslim (or another religion), we can converse intelligently and respectfully.
Respecting and Valuing People from Other Faiths
When we don't know about other religions, we often fear their adherents. But we don't have to approach people in fear just because they are different. They are people like us, who happen to believe differently. We want to be able to understand where they are coming from, and share with them that Christianity has a valid perspective. We want to be able to lovingly share that Jesus is good news for them, too.
In our increasingly globalized world, your children will undoubtedly encounter people of various faiths, if they haven't already. Aren't they best prepared for this when they're at home, with you? I love what another mom recently shared:
I want to be able to discuss other religions with my children. What better way for children to learn about worldly issues than in a safe environment taught by a parent? We recently learned about Buddha. It was fascinating to learn how that whole religion started and that it came from a positive place. I learned right along with my son. We had a great discussion that while Buddha was a nice man, he was not to be worshipped.boyandgirl
As this mom discovered, Sonlight's approach to studying various religions gives wonderful opportunities to talk with your children about what you believe and why. And you don't have to be trained in Christian apologetics in order to discuss this with your children. Your Instructor's Guide shows the way as you help your children see that Jesus is different from the gods and prophets of other faiths.
I pray that your Sonlight adventure blesses you with opportunities to learn alongside your children as you help them grow strong in their faith. May they grow up to be informed, loving ambassadors of Christ!
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