When Keegan interviews prospective non-Christian families, she explains to them that they will be expected to respect the school’s faith commitment and that their children won’t be excused from religious activities such as chapel services. However, she suggests that parents honestly tell their children that they don’t believe all the same things as the school, and that they discuss the reasons for their choices when differences become evident.
different teaching approaches Besides the religious component, do these kinds of schools differ in any other significant ways? Razack explains that Islamia Primary offers both Arabic and Islamic Studies as subjects. This provides students with the opportunity to obtain secular and religious knowledge at the same institution as part of one learning experience. The curriculum of Westville Hindu Primary also goes beyond an academic and sports programme to include culture through music, dance and yoga, as well as meditation and simple Hawan, Hindi or Tamil lessons. Keegan believes that The Vine School’s Christian world-view has a radical effect on their teaching approach. She says that it affects everything they do. Keegan explains that because children are made in the image of a personal God, they are seen as “creative, relational beings with unlimited potential and eternal destiny”. With this perception in mind, she says it makes no sense to define expected outcomes and subject all children to the same standardised tests. This does not take their individuality into account. Therefore, the school does not support low-interest tasks like completing worksheets and other “busy work”, which just leads to boredom and inattention (and the proliferation of an ADHD diagnosis). “We also don’t believe in using ‘manipulative methods’ – like star charts, prizes, effusive praise, conditional love or even black marks or demerits – but prefer to awaken their curiosity through interesting and intellectually satisfying content.” Jimmy Khanyile, who works as a scientist manager for the Department of Environmental Affairs, decided to send his daughter, Rorisang, aged six, to The Vine School. Khanyile explains that when he and his wife, Ella, saw the advert for the school in the paper, he
perceived it as an answer to his prayers. They were searching for a religious school that embodies Christian faith values, such as kindness, care and ethics. He says: “The philosophy of the school (based on the Ambleside curriculum) and its religious alignment is congruent, because it allows learning and growing of new habits while strengthening an individual’s emotional intelligence, not only for learners but also for parents.” Choosing the right school for your child can cause anxiety for many parents. This is partly because a school is selected before a child’s talents and personality are entirely known. Schools with a strong religious component might be worth considering if the fit is good with the family, the school is particularly appealing or the spiritual needs of your child are important to you.
other ways to teach your child spirituality outside the classroom Dr Laura Markham, a clinical psychologist and creator of the website ahaparenting.com, offers the following tips for encouraging nondenominational spirituality: • Develop your child’s sense of wonder Try and point out the miracle of life to your child – take time to look at a new flower that has sprouted, a snail making tracks across the garden or a gangly puppy. • Build trust Even if you don’t believe in a God, children need to feel that the universe is basically benevolent and not out to get them. • Answer the deep questions Children’s endless questions can become annoying, but they are trying to get to the heart of the matter. They need to understand that there are reasons why things happen, even if these reasons don’t always make sense. Even if an act of violence occurs, she advises that you say, “Sometimes people disagree with each other and they don’t use their words to work things out. They fight – with their hands or guns or bombs. Those things always create more pain and hurt. That’s why we always try to use words.” • Use reflection People benefit from shutting down the noise of technology
i’m an atheist or agnostic…
and quietly reflecting, whether this includes prayer or not. Take time to be
Richard Dawkins’ book The Magic of Reality examines, at a level suitable for young people, how science rather than the Bible can explain the world. It’s an alternative way for understanding why things happen the way they do and this resource might be a useful addition for parents who want to provide children with a variety of explanations.
together with your family. Go for walks in the forest or look up at the night sky.
Spend the weekend unplugged from all electronic devices. • Teach gratitude Model aloud how wonderful it is to have certain things – a tasty meal, a warm bed at night, a fun play date; gratitude is about being aware of what has been received.