Religious Education (RE) is different from the rest of the school syllabus in the UK. There are National Curriculum attainment levels for different ages, but the actual content is up to each individual school or authority. The many church-linked state schools are free to choose primarily Christian material, and any parent can withdraw their children from RE if they wish.
Home educators can, of course, do whatever they like as far as religious education goes. If the family has a particular set of religious beliefs, they will no doubt teach their children about them, whether they’re in school or not.
As Christians, we brought our sons up to believe in the Christian God, and introduced them to Bible stories and church at a young age. They attended a Church of England state school in the UK for a few years, where the RE curriculum was basically Christian, with sessions introducing children to features of other religions too. I felt this useful – how can Christians ever reach out to those of other faiths if they know nothing about them?
The Internet has a wealth of information about religions, although not too many interactive or activity sites. Here are a few as starting points to children wanting to know more about religious symbols or festivals. The majority are Christian since that’s my background and belief, but there are a few about world religions in general which should lead to further links and some with activities or explanations about some of the other religions:
What is religion? – from the ‘united religions initiative’ (URI) this is an outline of what we actually mean by religion, suitable for children of about eight and upwards asking this sort of question.
World religions facts – focus on the six major world religions, this is a primary school site with basic information and statistics. For children of about 7-11.
Religion and ethics – from the BBC site, a succinct outline of the beliefs and practices of seventeen world religions. Suitable for those of about 10 and over.
E-Sword – a very comprehensive package, free to download, with the Bible in various versions, as well as commentaries and other features.
Jesus – the story – a thorough and thought-provoking site, looking at questions people ask about Jesus, explaining who he was and what he did while on earth. A Christian perspective without being pushy. Suitable for teenagers.
The meaning of Easter – from the Jesus Institute, this site explains what Easter is, how and why Jesus died, and what he said.
Traditions of Easter – historical overview of how Easter developed, what its origins are, and where some of the traditions developed. For any age.
The history of Christmas – from the History Channel, an explanation of how the celebration of Christmas started from a historical perspective.
Judaism and Jewish resources – an extensive site that has been around for many years, with lots of links and resources about Jewish beliefs and practises.
Jewish Children’s Learning Network – intended for Jewish children primarily, this has clear explanations of Jewish history, festivals and beliefs. For children of about seven and older.
The story of Passover – written for children, this explains the Jewish custom of celebrating Passover, and what its origins are. For any age.
Islam Guide – a useful site explaining Islam, intended as education for those who are not Muslims but would like to understand better what this religion is about.
An introduction to Buddhism – extensive site with a lot of text, most suitable for teenagers wanting to know in depth about this religion. ‘
Hinduism for Kids – from About.com, this gives sites relevant to children about Hindus
Diwali – explanation of what happens at the festival of light, one of the best-known Hindu celebrations
You may also be interested in my pages on Christian church history, beginning with the birth of the church.