Seventh Day Adventists
There was a rich discussion recently among early childhood educators about how much or where to adjust a program to fit in with a Seventh Day Adventist family. I fell to thinking about what I would do myself. Seventh Day Adventists do not seem to be common in my community – though there are many other varieties of belief systems that challenge us to work out how to accommodate everyone respectfully.
Seventh Day Adventists apparently have strong views on food, resurrection and the form of religious celebrations. Only some of these are likely to impact on the care and education of young children.
Many aspects of religious belief are not likely to be relevant to early childhood care. They are issues that do not tend to come up when working with young children. Seventh Day Adventists celebrate the Sabbath on Saturdays, for example. Our centre only runs Monday – Friday. Presumably the child will be home for the Sabbath. Though it is worth remembering that the day of worship is different for different cultures, if the subject ever comes up.
If I had a Seventh Day Adventist child join my class, I would of course have to discuss with a parent what aspects of their religion would impact on the care and education they want for their child. In some cases I would be able to change the program to fit in. But sometimes I might need an alternative activity for that child, or need to warn the parents in case they would prefer to stay away for the day.
I have read a little about Seventh Day Adventists this week. Here is how I think it would respond.
As with many religions, Seventh Day Adventists have dietary restrictions. One way to handle these is for the child to have separate food when necessary. But sometimes it is possible, or even easier, to give everyone a compatible diet. I think my response would be:
I would plan to promote healthy eating, and eating fresh fruit and vegetables. So much the better that this would fit in with the beliefs of a Seventh Day Adventist family.
It is fairly easy to avoid pork – including bacon, ham and prosciutto. I would probably not use them while the child was in my care. However, I would not stop other children from eating ham sandwiches brought from home.
I would not offer shellfish to children in my care anyway. The danger of allergy is high, and they are quite likely not to have been exposed before.
I have no interest in being vegetarian myself, but I find it fairly easy to make my education program vegetarian.
If I was in a family day care setting, with a small number of children, and one was vegetarian, I think I would make the whole diet vegetarian for everyone with the food I provide. What they bring from home would be their choice. It is easier to feed everyone the same thing. Meat-eating children are probably getting meat for dinner, which is likely to be enough meat in their lives.
I was very glad to send my own children to a vegetarian centre because I knew they would be more adventurous eaters there than at home, and would get some vegetables into them.
This is where I draw the line. I find it difficult to cook without eggs, milk and cheese. I will make the effort for allergies, but I would prefer not to have to do it for preferences.
Seventh Day Adventists celebrate Christmas. They see Christmas as a time of giving. They do not use imagery of things that are not real, so they do not want angels on the Christmas tree, or Santa.
I think I would find it easy to treat Christmas as a time of giving rather than receiving. I would be happy to set up an experience for children in my care that is about giving presents to others.
I personally prefer to focus on the Nativity story. I generally do not bring Santa into my program, or have a Christmas tree in my classroom. I usually retell the Nativity in a number of different ways – often involving the children in making a Nativity scene. I tell the terrestrial story, without much mention of the religious aspects.
The Archangel Gabriel and the choir of angels always feature in my version. I would have to discuss this with the family. If they felt strongly about it, I think I could cope with leaving out the angels, though I would miss them.
In my home, however, I always have a big decorated Christmas tree, and angels everywhere. If I were offering care in my home, I would expect a Seventh Day Adventist family to accept that they are coming into my home, and sharing in my culture. I would keep my tree and my angels.
I would prefer not to have to exclude a child from an activity. I have used angel shaped cards a few times in the past. I would not do that if I had a child whose family would not like it. I would not put myself in the situation where I had to tell the child he or she could not make one of those.
In theological terms, the nature of resurrection seems to be a key issue for Seventh Day Adventists. This is not the sort of thing I usually include in my curriculum. Not just because I see religion as a family matter, but also because I expect that level of abstraction to not be developmentally appropriate for preschoolers.
I would not raise the subject of resurrection when teaching. If a child did, that would be an interesting conversation. But I am confident I could handle it. I am already skilled at taking children’s own views seriously. I am interested in how children interpret the world. I might have to think on my feet. I might be puzzled or surprised by what I hear. But I hope I have already developed the instinct to listen carefully to the child and treat her ideas with respect. Perhaps I could even make documentation that would give the parents insight into how their child is constructing her understanding of their world and their beliefs. I would be proud of that.
This is my response in the abstract, based on a bit of virtual conversation and some internet research. It is no substitute for talking to the family about the home environment and what they want for their child. But perhaps I am a bit more prepared now, if a Seventh Day Adventist family happens to appear in my class next year.
Felt Nativity by Tumblemonkey.
Available from madeit.com.au