Once upon a time, our family lived in a culture where it was not necessary to employ reason in our daily actions because there were laws that dictated our actions. For example, a person would not kill his or her neighbor because there were a set of consequences that would result, not necessarily in a moral conscious twinge for taking a life, but laws that would punish and protect. Then we moved to México and here discovered that laws do not guarantee reasonable behavior. (See On Life and Liberty)
Therefore children should be taught as they become mature enough to understand such teaching that the chief responsibility which rests upon then: as persons is the acceptance or rejection of ideas presented to them. To help them in this choice we should afford them principles of conduct and a wide range of fitting knowledge.–Charlotte Mason
So how can I, as a mother, provide these principles of conduct and a wide variety of fitting knowledge when the culture we live within is not my own? Should I insist on the behavior of my own culture from my child? Should I negate the culture surrounding us? Should I compromise rules of conduct because the cultural norms of both cultures are not mutually exclusive? The answer is: it depends.
One example I mentioned before is that of the culturally permissible practice of lying in México. (See Parenting Challenge–Telling Truths). Lying is on my list of cardinal sins, but is so commonplace here that nothing spoken (or written) can be believed at full face value. So we compromise. Within our family, the rule is that we do not lie to one another, however outside the family circle, it is up to each member’s own reasoning ability whether to lie or not.
Then there is the touchy subject of religion. México is predominantly Catholic. The laws are made by Catholics for Catholics. Anyone else outside that carefully maintained circle must fend for him or herself. This includes nearly universal instruction de la fe (of the faith or more specifically Mexican Catholic faith) that the majority of private schools include as part of their regular curriculum. Public schools have after-hour Catechism now because technically there is a separation of church and state by law, if not by practice. All of my son’s classmates at the public school he attends, also attend Catechism in preparation for their first communions. My son does not. (See Homeschool Variation). If his remaining unbaptized in the Catholic faith makes him like the animals (as his grandmother repeatedly told him) then so be it. He and I are animals.
Conventional religious instruction should not be confused with faith which can include any number of religions. We talk in our family openly about faith and what it can and can not do and how it is different from religion. So how do we navigate these tricky waters? By taking them one issue at a time. (See Parenting Challenge–When someone dies). Each unexpected disaster, each surprising wonder is an opportunity for us to discuss as a family what it means to have faith and what faith looks like, for us and for those around us. (See Carnival, Lent, Pilgrimages).
Each discussion teaches us anew that … .there is no single point upon which two persons may reason,––food, dress, games, education, politics, religion,––but the two may take opposite sides, and each will bring forward infallible proofs which must convince the other were it not that he too is already convinced by stronger proofs to strengthen his own argument.–Charlotte Mason. (See Politicking)
So my task as a mother and educator for my son is to develop his reasoning abilities through a broad spectrum of lessons and experiences. (See Parenting Challenge–Creating an Atmosphere for Education) Beyond the English grammar worksheet in the morning and the Mexican history lesson in the afternoon, there are other lessons to learn. Sometimes these lessons are through his own studies (See Parenting Challenge–Education as a Discipline) and sometimes they are incidental. (See Parenting Challenge–Conformity and Education, Parenting Challenge–Cultural Apathy). And I continue to work at this because I firmly believe that the function of education is not to give technical skill but to develop a person; the more of a person, the better the work of whatever kind; and who doesn’t want his or her child to become a whole person?
It is my hope, that even though the laws in this country prove without a doubt that no wrong thing has ever been done or said, no crime committed but has been justified to the perpetrator by arguments coming to him involuntarily and produced with cumulative force by his own reason that my son can develop his own reasoning to find his own way as he travels through life. Since once we are convinced of the fallibility of our own reason we are able to detect the fallacies in the reasoning of our opponents and are not liable to be carried away by every wind of doctrine or custom.