Raising Freethinkers: A Practical Guide for Parenting Beyond Belief Paperback – Feb 11 2009
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As a nonreligious parent among a largely religious extended family, I both appreciated the sense of community I felt (I'm not the only one!), but also the sense of respectfulness for religious folks evident in the book's tone. All the chapters come from a place of deep regard for children's capacity to learn and think for themselves, and highlight how exciting an adventure it can be to raise kids free from indoctrination. I love the ideas for encouraging scientific reasoning and critical thinking, as well as ethical living.
Since reading this book, we've modeled the scale of our solar system, read creation stories from around the world, found a way to support our daughter in her quandary with the Girl Scout pledge, discovered new ways to answer questions about death, found ways to handle interactions with religious family members, and uncovered a vast new list of kids' books we plan to read as a family. And this is just what I can remember off the top of my head. There are extensive resource lists and activity ideas at the end of each section.
Raising Freethinkers is simply fantastic, and unlike anything else I've found out there. I most strongly recommend it.
This and Parenting Beyond Belief will now be in every baby shower gift I buy for my nonreligious friends.
This book offers lots of parent questions, exercises, practical advice, and resources for fostering religious literacy, developing an ethical foundation not tied to religion, dealing with relatives and friends with traditional religious beliefs, and developing family rituals and frameworks for helping kids deal with the life passages and death outside of a conventional religious framework. It is not a dogmatic atheist book, and is more oriented around developing tolerance and curiousity regarding religion and spiritual issues, so I was very comfortable with most of it.
In addition to the topics already mentioned, I liked the first 'Inquiring Mind' chapter, which I think any parent should read, in order to more deeply consider the ramifications of feeding your kids your own answers to life questions, and how to best foster a sense of curiosity and 'freethinking' in them. I did have issues with some of the themes and exercises that seemed to equate freethinking automatically with rationality or current scientific thinking, as for me these too have their limitations, but I think the message on those can be tweaked.
So, if you are grappling with unconventional spiritual beliefs, and how to parent your child within those, and/or how to best prepare them for dealing with a religious society, this book is worth a look.
And it's much more than just a listing. The resources are buttressed by practical, thoughtful writing on navigating kids through a religious world with grace, humanity, kindness and respect. What's not to like?
I recommend it as highly as possible. Get it for yourself, get it for your local atheist grandma, get it for that lonesome nonreligious parent in a religious family, get it for your local humanist society! Just get it, you'll love it.
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