Building Tolerance in Homeschooling and Unschooling Conversations which Mention Religion and Faith

by Beverley Paine

Today the media constantly reminds me of the need for tolerance and understanding regarding other people positions of faith and beliefs.

Sympathy for the perspective of others goes a long way when being tolerant: much further than intellectual understanding combined perhaps with the pressing need to feel like we 'belong' (sometimes expressed as the need for 'agreement').

Very few people I know talk or write from an impersonal viewpoint - we all tend to speak from our hearts what is in our minds and these thoughts are based on our personal beliefs, values and experiences. When I listen or read what people are saying, especially on my home education support groups, I acknowledge that the person is saying "I" not "one" (a general statement about everyone) and that responses reflect the views and beliefs of that individual. I could chose to read everything as a comment on what others should be doing if I want, but I tend to read people's posts as a comment on what that individual believes, how they live their lives, what is important to them... And I look to see what need is being expressed and how I can help that person fulfill that need. That's my role in that person's conversation with me. I don't want to judge what they say, or compare it to what I believe or think (though that is hard not to do) - I want to listen and see if there is anything that works for me, that I can take away and use to build a more informed life for me, or can use to help them feel reassured, comfortable and more empowered to do what they need to do in their life.

Obviously we can all communicate with more clarity and greater sense of purpose. And we can all let go of the need to tell everyone what we believe and think and so on. But that is what makes us human. We learn because we converse with each - learning is a social act. Our conversations with others and ourselves help us grow. Conversation is risky - that's what makes it an excellent learning tool! We take a chance when we speak our hearts and minds. When we are listened to with respect and tolerance and sympathy we open up and share more.


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