Secular Lessons for Kids

“I just tell myself that I’m going to read 10 pages a day, no matter what”. —Mom

In one of my previous posts, I was asked if I was going to “dedicate my son” in the religious sense. In that post, I revealed an idea of mine to put together “secular lessons” for kids of atheist parents. I don’t currently know of any materials out there that help kids navigate the world of “right” and “wrong”, for developing their own sense of morality, or teaching reason and free thought. I’m sure that kids do learn some of this stuff in school, but I personally have a great passion for lifetime learning, passed down to me from my parents and grandparents. If you know of already developed materials, please comment below!

Some quick anecdotes about my family.

My dad told me once that his parents had a set of Britannica Encyclopedias.  Rather than let them collect dust on the shelf as they would have done in most homes, my dad actually sat down and read them. Granted, he probably did not read every word cover-to-cover, but I’m sure he read the entries that intrigued him. He is very knowledgeable man about a wide variety of topics. Now that I am grown, I love the opportunities for dinner together as a family. I could ask him a question about almost any subject and he’d know a little bit about it. I’ve never heard the same story from him twice.

My mom is on a quest to read a biography for each of the U.S. presidents. I swear she goes on Amazon and picks out the biggest, thickest book she can find and she plods right through it. She has read all kinds of other literature of course, but the presidents project has been ongoing for many years. She usually has about 5 books going at once (different subjects, not just the presidents). They for different times of the day; morning coffee book, lunch book,  bedtime book, (ahem) bathroom book. heh. I asked her what she does if the book is really really boring, and she said, “I just tell myself that I’m going to read 10 pages a day, no matter what”.

My grandpa, who is no longer with us, was lifetime learner as well. He died fairly recently in February of this year. He was 91 years old. He often liked to retreat to his favorite chair to read. When his eyesight failed him, he switched to books on tape. His kids wrote a moving eulogy for him, and the last few lines read, “For many of these men, the advancing years robbed them physically but could not steal their spirit, their love of learning, and the pleasure they gave and received from a cup of coffee and an hour of good conversation.” That was my grandpa.

Anyway, I’m surrounded by people who love to learn, and I intend to carry that torch onward with my son.

So without further ado, I’ll here’s a list of topics I’m considering for my secular lessons. If I ever get around to writing out a lesson, I’ll post it in a separate article for you. There’s really too many topics to exhaustively list here. If you’re wondering about the rhyme or reason I have for including one topic, but not another, I am actually going through my podcast archives for ideas. If there’s a podcast for it, I’ll list the topic.

Structure of a Lesson

  • read a story/assign a book
  • find pictures and coloring pages
  • watch a movie
  • listen to a podcast
  • listen to a song
  • activity/field trip
  • Make themed food
  • hands on/craft
  • play a game (check app store as well)

Lesson Topic Ideas

The Human Body

  • Integumentary System. Acne
  • Circulatory System, Blood, heart
  • Reproductive System. Gender reassignment, Kissing, Circumcision, Pregnancy, can you remember being born?, how twins work
  • Nervous System. Memory, Migraine, Schizophrenia, Sleepwalking
  • Emotions. Can anger be a good thing?, Curiosity, Fear, Laughter, Hate, Jealousy, Smiling/happy
  • Sensories. Taste, touch, smell, hear, see. Blindness/braille, Deafness/sign language, Tickling

Animals

  • Bees
  • Butterflies
  • Cats
  • Dogs; Domestication of dogs
  • Octopus
  • Sharks

The natural world/outer space

  • Space. Asteroid mining, Moon, Sun
  • Tornados; thunderstorms; rain; clouds
  • Natural Disasters. Earthquakes (can humans cause?), volcanos, Sinkholes, Wildfires, Quicksand
  • Biology. Fossils, Parallel evolution

Things

  • Airplanes
  • Casinos
  • Family crests
  • Geocaching
  • Gum
  • Internet
  • Legos
  • Lie detectors
  • Mirrors
  • Nicotine
  • Nuclear energy
  • Recycling, clean up oil spills, Green renovation
  • Roller coasters
  • Route 66
  • Saunas
  • Totem poles
  • Muppets
  • White house

Life skills

  • Bartering
  • Health insurance
  • Money, saving, budgeting, giving
  • Writing a Will

People and Occupations

  • Albert Einstein
  • Amelia Earheart
  • Firemen
  • James Bond
  • Knights, Castles
  • Nickola Tesla
  • Pirates
  • Policemen (swat team)
  • Scooby-Doo

Culture

  • Christmas
  • Easter
  • Egypt, mummies, pyramids
  • First Americans
  • Halloween
  • Hanukkah
  • Homelessness
  • Igloo
  • Ninjas, samurai
  • Shrunken heads
  • Sword swallowing
  • Thanksgiving
  • Vikings

Beliefs/Religions

  • Acupuncture
  • Amish
  • Christianity
  • Cults
  • Hypnosis
  • Islam
  • Karma
  • Judaism
  • Reincarnation
  • Suicide bombers
  • Voodoo
  • Witch craft

Major Events or Movements

  • Black death
  • Moon landing
  • Prohibition
  • Underground railroad

Image Source: Todd Petrie

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