Child frustrated with secular school being non-secular (age based perceived asyncronicity gifted issue) - Mothering Forums

 
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#1 of 25 Old 09-06-2009, 01:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I am posting in PTGC because I am seeking advice on navigating the school system from our DD's advanced perspective of religious and spiritual issues. This is not intended to be a religious debate or a schooling discussing. I am seeking advice on how to help DD with her issues in an environment that may perceive her too young to have these thoughts and how to ensure that people recognize this is all DD and not parental pressure.

ODD is 8. She started asking 'meaning of life' questions when she was 4 and it has been an underlying interest/passion of hers since then. We gave her options, "some people believe x, some believe y, some believe z, you can believe whatever you want". When she was 6 she decided she did not believe in God. We give her the freedom to believe what she will and have taught her that everyone has the right to believe whatever they choose and everyone deserves respect. She is very interested in religion and spirituality. Without going into too much detail I would say she thinks about it more then most any other subject (it's either religion or math). She had some issues in 1st grade regarding her beliefs and had some negative experiences which have led her to feel alienated and fearful of discussing religion.

DD is loving 3rd grade. She has had no transition issues and the school year is going very well for her so far. She goes to a private secular school. She came home one day and we had the following conversation:

"Why do I go to a religious school?".
"It isn't a religious school, it's a secular school and they don't align themselves with any one religion but do teach about lots of different ones on occasion."
"That's not true. They are non-secular."
"How so?"
"In music class we sing about God and a the beginning of programs we pray to God and once a week we do a reading which is another prayer to God.... Why do you think they are secular when they are not?"
"Well, the school is classified as a secular school and they refer to themselves as such because they don't teach any one religion or expect anyone to believe a certain one."
"If they told you they were secular then they lied. Why would the school lie to you like that?"

And on, and on, and on....

We've had conversations like this it feels like almost everyday and always initiated by her. We find ourselves defending the position of the school "this is tradition, it's just a song and you can enjoy the song without believing what it says" etc. etc..

Here's the issue: DD is disturbed by this and feels the school is being hypocritical. She is also a people-pleaser and does not want to make waves so our suggestions of observing in silence out of respect aren't working. She feels as if she is expected to do this and it isn't enough for us to tell her she isn't even though it's true. What she needs is someone in authority at the school to tell her so. She is gun shy about doing this though based on past experience. We are gun shy because we aren't sure how to accurately get the point across that this is DD's issue. It isn't about us, it's all about DD and her hyper awareness of the issue. Literally: when she was 7 at the end of first grade she went off on a 15 minute rant when she actually read the words on a dollar bill. I sat there : at this little child who sounded like a bitter 20-something year old.

This is really bothering DD and we do not want it to affect her learning. We are concerned as to how her feelings of the school being hypocritical on this one thing could impact her in other areas (ie: trust in the environment in general). How do we get the school and DD to address this issue together w/o it appearing like it's really mom and dad who have the issue? Is it really abnormal for young kids to have these philosophical thoughts? We're pretty convinced that if she goes in there and says something the assumption will be that's it really her parents issue (which it is not: I only have an issue with it insofar as DD does). She's afraid they will look at her differently and tell her she's too young to know for herself or make up her own mind (which she's been told before). I trust that the school will tell her exactly what we've told her though, in spite of where they may think it's coming from. She needs to hear it from them but she doesn't trust that they will say that.

Any advice?
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#2 of 25 Old 09-06-2009, 01:17 PM
 
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I'm a lurker on this forum, and I don't have any great advice, but wanted to ask a question that I hope will help you move forward.

Why does it matter if they think it's about you (the parents)? If DD and you and the admin have a meeting and talk about this, and a solution is reached (she hears what she needs to hear), then why do their perceptions matter to you?

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#3 of 25 Old 09-06-2009, 01:37 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Why does it matter if they think it's about you (the parents)? If DD and you and the admin have a meeting and talk about this, and a solution is reached (she hears what she needs to hear), then why do their perceptions matter to you?
Good question. My concern is that historically once parents get involved teachers/admins have a tendency to address parents. Because of this we want to try to facilitate that this be between the school and DD. We are concerned that there response could be based on an inaccurate assumption that this is coming from us and not her which could change their approach in dealing with her: a differing household view versus an individual issue. She is timid with authority so is unlikely to question anything they may say but would come back home and question us. If they understood her conceptual level of understanding regarding the issue they could better address it with her. She is highly unlikely to accuse them of lying, but would freely say it to us. KWIM?

Maybe I should just have her write them a letter in her own words, or journal about it and ask her if she'd be willing to share it with them. On that level it wouldn't matter if they really thought it was coming from us, as long as they knew where she stood.
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#4 of 25 Old 09-06-2009, 01:39 PM
 
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I have the same thought as the previous poster. If your daughter has expressed what she needs and you are confident that you can get that for her, why are you concerned about the perception of the school? Does your DD feel that she needs to be given credit in some way?

As for your daughter's perspective, I know I had a number of those thoughts in grade school. I remember reciting the Pledge of Allegiance but simply leaving out "under god" each time. It wasn't a big deal, and nobody even noticed, but I felt subversive every single time. Religious songs really bugged me as a kid (they don't anymore), and having to read a religious book or pray in school would have totally infuriated me. I would also have considered a school that did these things to be religious--and, to be honest, I would still consider a school that prays to be religious.

I wonder if you are perhaps doing too good of a job justifying the school's position. If you set yourself up to be the school's defenders, you may end up just throwing fuel on the fire. Have you tried saying something like, "Yes, you're right; that is hypocritical. But nobody is perfect, and the school does do a lot of other things that I like." And rather than insisting that the school is secular, perhaps you could discuss why they might want to market themselves in that way and nonetheless include religious elements in the school day. You might discuss the lack of awareness that many religious people have that others do not share their beliefs.
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#5 of 25 Old 09-06-2009, 01:45 PM
 
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I completely agree with your daughter. If they're saying prayers, then it's a religious school, not a secular school. The school is misrepresenting itself, and you're defending it.
Your daughter sounds a lot like me at that age. I also ranted about "In God We Trust" on money, "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, and the assumption that such a thing as "God" exists by the majority of people around me. I was verbally abused by my peers as well as adults because I didn't buy into their mass delusion (as I thought of it). I felt very, very alone. And it was very important to me that my parents understood my perspective and backed me up.

I don't think it's too much to explain to your child that you live in an area where the majority of people believe in a "God". Monotheism is the standard, so there's the default position that "God" exists, rather than the default being that we don't know, or that there isn't verifiable evidence of the existence of "God". Organizations that are supposed to be secular - such as the government - are made up of people who are religious. We end up with excuses for religion in government that don't hold water. It's not fair. It's really and truly not fair and it's not right. And your daughter needs to hear that from you. She needs to hear that you understand and you agree with her. And she may need an outlet to express those frustrations of being a minority. Maybe activism that she can participate in (writing letters expressing her frustrations as a young atheist), or an atheist magazine she can read, or a local freethinkers group she can attend - even if just once to see that there are plenty of adults who agree with her and support her.

As for the current situation: if she's not ready to talk with the administration, then maybe she needs more time to truly understand her rights in this matter. Maybe she needs another way to approach things. Perhaps talk with her of civil disobedience. Talk with her about people who have stood up for their beliefs, even when doing so could land them in jail. Talk with her about the consequences she fears, and whether standing for her beliefs would be worth risking those consequences. Allow her to consider not participating in the prayers as an act of civil disobedience.

I think you worry too much about how the school will see you. You should be supporting your daughter in this. Whether the school personnel recognize that this is her fight or think it's coming from you shouldn't matter to you. What should matter to you is that, since this is your daughter's fight, it is also your fight. So, if you need to be the one to address this with school personnel and navigate the situation as your daughter's advocate, do so. And accept that the result may be that you're seen as a difficult parent, or an atheist, or whatever. Your daughter is worth that small sacrifice.
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#6 of 25 Old 09-06-2009, 01:50 PM
 
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As a lifelong atheist who definitely had some of the same thoughts as your duaghter (my issue was with grace being said at Girl Scout meetings), I applaud and agree with lotusdebi's post. As a parent, though, I completely understand your concerns about approaching the school. What is your impression of the school principal, etc.? That would influence how I reacted to this situation. I would think some higher-ups would bluster and eye-roll in this situation and others would be responsive and fair.

ETA that I am also raising a young atheist (her decision) who would be VERY likely to be upset by this sort of thing as well!

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#7 of 25 Old 09-06-2009, 02:12 PM
 
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It might be interesting with your daughter to look up the meaning of the word secular. From my perspective your daughter is correct that a school that is teaching a variety of religions is not secular. It sounds like it might be more accurate to say her school is nonsectarian rather than a secular school.
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#8 of 25 Old 09-06-2009, 03:35 PM
 
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First, I agree with your daughter as far as saying prayers=non-secular school.

Second, as for the music classes, there have been court rulings allowing some religious music in music classes even in public schools. This is on the basis that forbidding it would cut out a huge amount of say, Bach, from being allowed to be taught in public schools, which is just impractical.
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#9 of 25 Old 09-06-2009, 04:20 PM
 
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I was also going to point to the definition of "secular." But I find it to defend the school's point of view. Secular does not = atheist. Secular means that it is not specifically religious or of a certain denomination or religion. You can have a "secular preist." It sounds strange because of how we use the term secular, but a secular preist just does not belong to a specific denomination. I think you'd have to look far and wide for a truly non-religious school, one that would not mention Christmas or Easter, both religious holidays. We attended a "secular" pre-school last year, but they also prayed before snack, and they use the term "God" not "Jesus." And I think the intent of the school is to use the term "God" so that it can mean my God, your God, and his God. Maybe you can explain that to your daughter. That her school is not a religious school, in that they do not overtly teach religion, there are no bible classes or teaching of creation, etc. They are not trying to convince her of christianity, judaism, or Islam.

But as far as the issue at hand, if you think the school will give you the answer that she needs to hear, then it shouldn't matter if you or she is the one to bring it up in a meeting with the school. Whatever will help her feel better about all those thoughts in her mind.

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#10 of 25 Old 09-06-2009, 04:59 PM
 
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Originally Posted by lotusdebi View Post
I completely agree with your daughter. If they're saying prayers, then it's a religious school, not a secular school. The school is misrepresenting itself, and you're defending it.

I think the issue is how you want to handle the fact that you have unknowingly sent your DD to a religious school, not try to get the school the same lies they fed you.

Do you want to talk to her about making compromises and concessions? Say something such as "this is a really good school, and the religious parts are brief and not overly dogmatic, could you just try to ignore them." If it is a really good private school I would go this route.

Possibly in conjunction with talking to her about compromises, she could write a letter to the administration about calling themselves "nonsectarian" or "nondenominational" instead of "secular."

Do you want to talk to her about her options as far as filing a complaint? If it is a public school, then I highly recommend this route. I would start by having her write a letter to the administration.

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#11 of 25 Old 09-06-2009, 05:05 PM
 
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I was also going to point to the definition of "secular." But I find it to defend the school's point of view. Secular does not = atheist. Secular means that it is not specifically religious or of a certain denomination or religion. You can have a "secular preist." It sounds strange because of how we use the term secular, but a secular preist just does not belong to a specific denomination. I think you'd have to look far and wide for a truly non-religious school, one that would not mention Christmas or Easter, both religious holidays. We attended a "secular" pre-school last year, but they also prayed before snack, and they use the term "God" not "Jesus." And I think the intent of the school is to use the term "God" so that it can mean my God, your God, and his God. Maybe you can explain that to your daughter. That her school is not a religious school, in that they do not overtly teach religion, there are no bible classes or teaching of creation, etc. They are not trying to convince her of christianity, judaism, or Islam.
I guess this is a matter of perspective. To me, any school that includes a prayer to "God" is aligning itself with the Abrahamic religions, at the very least. And, more realistically, with a particular variety of Christianity. After all, in most of the Abrahamic religions, including many varieties of Christianity, prayer is ritualized. I guess I can understand how someone might think, "Oh, if we take 'Jesus' out and put 'God' in it will work for everyone," but I think that shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the great variety of world religions.

I do understand that a great many people believe that "secular prayers" are possible, but I absolutely do not see it that way. I would note that even if it were possible to have a prayer that was not related to any specific religion, it would not be secular by some (perfectly legitimate) definitions, e.g.: "of or pertaining to worldly things or to things that are not regarded as religious, spiritual, or sacred"; "not pertaining to or connected with religion"; "concerned with nonreligious subjects." Et cetera.
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#12 of 25 Old 09-06-2009, 05:16 PM
 
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In addition to the suggestions made above, you might want to offer your DD the option of "blame it on Mom and Dad". If she's too insecure to talk to school personelle directly, she might prefer it if you stepped in and took care of things for her. I've done that in many cases in a variety of situations with my own children, most often when standing up to friends (it can be easier to say she's not allowed to go to that party than to admit she doesn't want to go.)

Also, explain to her that others may have a different understanding of the term "secular" than she does. "Nonsectarian" is probably more accurate than "secular", although the terms are often used interchangably. It's "secular" in the sense that nothing they do would be offensive to Jews, Muslims, or various branches of Christianity, and might even be palatable to some Pagans.

I also agree with the above poster that you should stop defending the school. Point out to her that she's absolutely right- the school isn't really being "secular". Ask her what she wants to do about it. "Doing nothing and continuing to be annoyed by it" is a valid option. So is "having Mom or Dad step in and say something to the school", "having her say something to teachers" or "moving her to another school." She sounds mature enough to have this conversation with you, and pretty much decide which course of action to take (although the last option is something that I don't think she should be deciding all on her own.)

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#13 of 25 Old 09-06-2009, 05:21 PM
 
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Your daughter sounds very thoughtful. I don't think it's all that unusual for kids to think deeply about these things at that age. My older dd asked me about the origins of humanity when she wasn't even 4 -- she said, "Mommy, you're my mommy, and grandma's your mommy, and she had a mommy, too...but who was the first, first, first mommy?" This led to about a week of bedtime stories when I told her different people's beliefs about the beginnings of things (the Christian creation story and evolution being the two I talked about the most). We returned to these issues over the years, with her initially deciding that she was a Christian (around age 4), but forcefully rejecting that view by age 5 or so, when she decided that God didn't exist and she didn't believe in anything supernatural. She still feels that way today and occasionally shocks family members by open, unconflicted expression of her beliefs.

(I should mention that dh and I both grew up Christian, although on opposite sides of the Catholic/Protestant divide; we are now both non-churchgoing atheists,though, and have been for years. We have made an effort to teach our kids about what Christian symbols and rituals mean so that they are familiar with the majority religion in their culture, but we've never suggested that we ourselves believe in any of that.)

It sounds like the crux of the issue for your dd is that she's feeling uncomfortable having to pretend to believe something that she doesn't. Telling her just to respect the prayers, etc. without having to believe is probably not enough because she feels uncomfortable either way -- remaining silent or keeping her eyes open during prayer probably feels just as uncomfortable as pretending to participate.

Perhaps the idea of having her write a letter in her own words, and giving it to an adult she trusts there (it doesn't have to go straight to the administration; they'd hear about it from the teacher or whoever) would be helpful for her. She wants their permission to feel at peace expressing her own lack of belief in the beliefs they are promoting, and she doesn't want to be viewed as someone trying to stir up trouble.

She's not too young to start thinking about Christianity in a different light, though. One of the things our older dd is very perceptive about is the religion as part of the culture. We feel it's important for our kids to know the basic Bible stories and characters, as well as certain core traditions. So much in Western culture relies on this basic knowledge (art, music, history, literature) that kids without any background in it are disadvantaged when they come to study any of those things. You need basic Biblical knowledge for studying literature just as you need exposure to Shakespeare.

I think once dd gets beyond her discomfort with goings-on at school, she could possibly take a more analytical "sociologist's" approach without feeling she has to buy into any of the beliefs themselves. She can learn about why people think this way and what the history of these beliefs is in the US and her local context. Maybe this shift of perception would help her continue to grow in her understanding without feeling that she herself is hypocritical in any way.

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#14 of 25 Old 09-06-2009, 05:22 PM
 
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#15 of 25 Old 09-06-2009, 05:22 PM
 
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I was also going to point to the definition of "secular." But I find it to defend the school's point of view. Secular does not = atheist. Secular means that it is not specifically religious or of a certain denomination or religion.
While I agree that secular isn't the same as atheist, I think that this is a case of the school not being truly secular.

For example: around here many secular school allow student, who are fasting for Ramadan, to skip lunch; instead of sitting in the lunch room hungry watching other students stuffing their faces. This is secular and tolerant, but if the schools tried to get all students to fast, even if they claimed it was just for cultural reasons, that would not be secular.

Another example: would be allowing a student whose religion required a prayer at specified time a quiet area to do it. However, if the school had that same student lead the whole class in his prayer, then it would no longer be secular.

A secular school provides for students to take off time for religious holly days. If a large percentage of the school belong to the religion in question they may even choose to close the school (for example DS's school close for all the major Jewish holidays.) However, if the school started making holiday preparations, or lead holiday programs, then it is no longer secular.

The OP's DD's school is actually presenting prayers to the students on a weekly basis. They aren't including an occasional song in music class that happens to be religious in the context of a particular period; they are singing a specific religious song at the start of each and every music class.

I think her DD is right, and shouldn't simply have her feeling explained away.

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#16 of 25 Old 09-06-2009, 05:29 PM
 
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I guess my point wasn't really to defend the school, but to show how to explain to this gifted child that the school is probably not being hypocritical in their own mind. They are not deliberately marketing themselves as being atheist and then praying to God, so as to be deceitful. But to explain to the child that the school, declaring itself secular, is not trying to teach her about God, but to offer the opportunity to pray if she chooses....More as a ritual or tradition to teach children to be thankful for the meal that they have in front of them. (I hope that they are not forcing her to pray.) They are not being specifically religious. For example, there are plenty of "secular" songs which have been on the top 40 that use the word God, question God or even cry out to God. We don't call them religious songs or singers. And I wouldn't call the fans of those songs christians just because they love that song and sing it enthusiastically!

I'm just trying to think of how I would explain this to a child that sees every detail, where most children would just gloss over it. If the OP likes this school and wants it to be a good fit for her dd, then to an extent she will have to defend the school or at least try to help her dd see the school's perspective so that the child will have a positive experience there.

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#17 of 25 Old 09-06-2009, 05:33 PM
 
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Well, first of all, I agree with your daughter. It's not a secular school because the school day incorporates activities which presume that everyone believes in a God to whom it would be appropriate to pray.

I agree with the previous poster who suggested that it might help your daughter if you agreed with her. It helped me as a second grader to know that my mother agreed with me that the Pledge of Allegiance constituted a clear violation of the separation of Church and State. We both found it highly offensive, and she helped me to understand the historical context in which "under God" had been added to the Pledge.

I also think it might be helpful if she wrote a letter to the school administration explaining her discomfort. You might also include your own letter explaining what you have tried to do to help her, and what kind of response from the school you think might be helpful. Or you could wait and see what they do in response to her letter before providing further information of your own.

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#18 of 25 Old 09-06-2009, 05:54 PM
 
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I had the same issues as a kid and I anticipate my oldest son (the one who is not labeled gifted) will too. He is a vocal atheist and skeptic.
I would have her talk to her school about the issue and if they come back to you in the future, tell them that they need to talk to her because she thinks for herself.
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#19 of 25 Old 09-06-2009, 08:27 PM
 
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I don't have any practical advice, but a few of these books have been recommended to me. Maybe they'd be helpful for you.

Parenting Beyond Belief
http://www.amazon.com/Parenting-Beyo...2279172&sr=8-1
(I have this one, but have been lazy about actually reading it.)

Maybe Yes, Maybe No
http://www.amazon.com/Maybe-Yes-No-G..._bxgy_b_text_c

Laura - Mom to ds (10) and dd (7) "Time stands still best in moments that look suspiciously like ordinary life." Brian Andreas.

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#20 of 25 Old 09-06-2009, 10:45 PM
 
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What does the information the school puts out say? Can you have her research what the school website/mission statement says, and where this conflicts with what she sees as secular? You could use this as an opportunity to practice building a good argument -- one of the 'issues' I see a lot in bright students is that they've got well developed, firmly held beliefs, but they sometimes have a really hard time explaining them. If she can write out why she thinks this is hypocritical (maybe even using information from the school's website as evidence), it would be a good exercise for her.

You can then decide together whether she'd like to pursue this with the school - either alone or with your help. Given her past experience, I wouldn't encourage her to raise the debate in class, but perhaps in a discussion with her teacher or the principal.

You could also present the different definitions of 'secular' and discuss with her what the differences in the meanings are. She's still at an age where she might not necessarily consider that words can have different senses. 3rd graders, especially bright ones, are definitely aware that some words can have more than one meaning (this is the age for puns and riddles). But for an 'advanced' word like 'secular', my suspicion is that she won't consider that her definition of secular might be different from someone else's. For her secular = non-religious. For others, secular = non-denominational.

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#21 of 25 Old 09-06-2009, 10:47 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for all of the fabulous replies! This is really helping me think around this issue. We are really happy with the school overall, and we will see if we are even more so once they complete testing for her by the end of this month.

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Originally Posted by no5no5
I have the same thought as the previous poster. If your daughter has expressed what she needs and you are confident that you can get that for her, why are you concerned about the perception of the school? Does your DD feel that she needs to be given credit in some way?
I am not confident we can get it for her w/o involving her. In first grade she had similar issues. They learned a song in school for a program which spoke of listening to God. We did not know about it as she had on her own changed the words while she was singing at home, replacing God with myself. We found out about it much later (she's not much of a talker) after she had begun asking her friends and teachers if they believed in God. This process taught her not to share her beliefs and we spoke with her teacher for her. The teacher was kind and gracious, but addressed us and we reported back to DD. At this time we feel the issue needs to be addressed directly with DD so she can hear their response first hand. She doesn't feel she needs credit, but I want them to realize how important this issue is to HER and how much it is impacting her. I need for them to take her seriously, and in doing so I believe they need to understand this is truly her issue.

There are other people within the school who have had similar issues but only two that I know of. It's my understanding in both of those situations the parents had an issue and the parents were addressed. I'm not aware that the kids ever had an issue or noticed. In this situation I feel it would behoove DD in processing this that they understand her, or at least understood she had an issue as well and not simply deal with us.
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#22 of 25 Old 09-06-2009, 11:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My apologies for the multiple postings, and most likely spam for some. I started multi-quoting but my message got so long I could no longer deal with it.

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Originally Posted by lotusdebi View Post
I was verbally abused by my peers as well as adults because I didn't buy into their mass delusion (as I thought of it). I felt very, very alone. And it was very important to me that my parents understood my perspective and backed me up.
I'm sorry you went through that. It is exactly how our DD has felt for the past two years. We are trying diligently to ensure that she does not feel alone but tonight she was quoting statistical averages; "Out of 100 people maybe 16 of them are atheists and I don't think any of them go to my school". Thankfully, our evangelical neighbors who used to tell her she would go to hell and spend all of eternity being killed by the devil over and over again have changed their approach. Now they ask conceptual questions "Do you still not believe in God? Well, if you did what do you think he would look like. Why don't you come to church with us. It's so much fun, you'll get to do crafts!" Either they had some good training or listened to us.

But I digress, it's difficult for us to help her have a positive view and not be bitter. FWIW we do agree with her. We do acknowledge the hypocrisy. We do say it's unfair. We do remind her of her right (she's had a personal Bill of Rights since K) to have her own beliefs and that no one can infringe upon anyone's belief. We took her to a picnic a year ago for like minded people in hopes to find other free thinking kids for her. There were representatives from a summer camp there who were kind enough to sit down and answer her multitude of questions. She begged to go, I and sent her on her way this past summer. We really feel like it has helped her, but it reminded us (and her) how alone she is here.

We have tried local groups, but excluding her I was probably one of the youngest people there. We are thinking about a local UU church, but I am hesitant for my own reasons. She is currently intrigued by Taoism and we are looking up some local resources for her there. She does have her own blog specifically designated for this issue (more as a journal) which I actually forgot about. She wasn't very interested in it when we set it up but may be now. It might be a really good outlet for her to get her ideas together.

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Perhaps talk with her of civil disobedience. Talk with her about people who have stood up for their beliefs, even when doing so could land them in jail. Talk with her about the consequences she fears, and whether standing for her beliefs would be worth risking those consequences. Allow her to consider not participating in the prayers as an act of civil disobedience.
I really, truly like this approach. It would be so fitting for her! She is such a rules follower that we do actively try to find ways to help get outside that box. We were thrilled when she got reprimanded in 2nd grade for talking out of turn because it was so out of character for her. (ok, I hope you get what I mean here.) We saw it as a huge step, she of course was devastated.

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I think you worry too much about how the school will see you. You should be supporting your daughter in this. Whether the school personnel recognize that this is her fight or think it's coming from you shouldn't matter to you. What should matter to you is that, since this is your daughter's fight, it is also your fight. So, if you need to be the one to address this with school personnel and navigate the situation as your daughter's advocate, do so. And accept that the result may be that you're seen as a difficult parent, or an atheist, or whatever. Your daughter is worth that small sacrifice.
I am not worried how the school will see us as her parents, it's that I worry they will assume it is our issue and not hers and not take her seriously. Hopefully I explained that well in another post. Sure, as her parents it might go against my beliefs, but let's say we were talking about our younger DD who does believe in God. I wouldn't go into the school and make it an issue for her because at this time it wouldn't be. I feel in order to truly address this they need to understand it is DD's issue. She needs and deserves the respect for HER beliefs, not something that admin or teachers might feel is being imposed upon her by her parents. I feel the distinction between indoctrinated belief and self selected is important in this situation. Does that make sense?
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#23 of 25 Old 09-06-2009, 11:47 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by ZoraP View Post
She still feels that way today and occasionally shocks family members by open, unconflicted expression of her beliefs.
I wish our DD was still this confident with this issue, she was at one point. When I last spoke to her about it she wanted me to talk to admin at her school. She said she does not want too "because I am afraid of how they will react". I really feel this situation needs to be handled as 'perfectly' as possible because it is so emotionally raw for her. If we all do this 'right' she could walk out of it much better then she walked in.

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It sounds like the crux of the issue for your dd is that she's feeling uncomfortable having to pretend to believe something that she doesn't. Telling her just to respect the prayers, etc. without having to believe is probably not enough because she feels uncomfortable either way -- remaining silent or keeping her eyes open during prayer probably feels just as uncomfortable as pretending to participate.

Perhaps the idea of having her write a letter in her own words, and giving it to an adult she trusts there (it doesn't have to go straight to the administration; they'd hear about it from the teacher or whoever) would be helpful for her. She wants their permission to feel at peace expressing her own lack of belief in the beliefs they are promoting, and she doesn't want to be viewed as someone trying to stir up trouble.
I just wanted to say that this is all very insightful and describes DD perfectly. Tomorrow she is going to write out some of her thoughts, stream of conscious style. My hope is that I can take it to the admin for her and chat with her briefly and request she speak with DD. DD has decided she wants to meet with the admin, but only if I first speak with her first to ensure DD will be treated respectfully. DD is deciding if she wants to request that her 1st grade trusted teacher be present as well. I trust the admin to handle the issue delicately, DD does not have the experience with her to do that yet.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ZoraP View Post
She's not too young to start thinking about Christianity in a different light, though. One of the things our older dd is very perceptive about is the religion as part of the culture. We feel it's important for our kids to know the basic Bible stories and characters, as well as certain core traditions. So much in Western culture relies on this basic knowledge (art, music, history, literature) that kids without any background in it are disadvantaged when they come to study any of those things. You need basic Biblical knowledge for studying literature just as you need exposure to Shakespeare.

I think once dd gets beyond her discomfort with goings-on at school, she could possibly take a more analytical "sociologist's" approach without feeling she has to buy into any of the beliefs themselves. She can learn about why people think this way and what the history of these beliefs is in the US and her local context. Maybe this shift of perception would help her continue to grow in her understanding without feeling that she herself is hypocritical in any way.
I like the sociologists approach as well and might lead her down a cultural anthropologists path on this. She's been doing lots of reading on different religions as I stated earlier and I'm currently on the hunt for continental maps of predominate religions from different time periods for her. This came up after we were discussing a recent world map showing the majority religions by continent.

Thanks again for the interesting and respectful discussion everyone!
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#24 of 25 Old 09-07-2009, 02:07 PM
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I have very much enjoyed this discussion! I have been having many of these conversations with my 5 year old (good to see where they may be headed in a few years). Deep, philosophical, and religious stuff. Living in a very christian area, and my children's best friend being a very outspoken christian, it is has been necessary for me to gently and respectfully expose my children to the idea of different religions, cultures and belief systems, and how those of our neighbors and friends may differ from my and my dh's personal beliefs, and how it is all right for the girls to decide on their own what they believe. I think DD1 (8) is less inclined to believe in anything religious. She very much lives in the now. DD2 (5) has decided that she believes in God, but hasn't stated that she is Christian. We have our discussions as they pop up in her mind, so maybe we'll explore that when it next comes up. DD3 is 3.5 years old, and still believes the universe revolves around her.

I like the different angles of exploration this thread has brought up, from civil rights/disobedience, to athropological/cultural discovery.

Mama to: Katie, Emily , and Abby
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#25 of 25 Old 09-07-2009, 03:08 PM
 
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I think I would request two meetings: one for you to talk with whomever you need to at the school to lay everything on the table and then a meeting for your dd (w/or w/o you) once the school-side understands what your dd needs.
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