Prayer in Secular Preschool. WWYD? UPDATE #27 - Mothering Forums

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Old 08-15-2007, 10:10 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My 3.75 year old goes to a secular (meaning, not affiliated with a church) preschool. She came home tonight reciting a meal prayer that her teacher taught her to say at lunch. My family is not a member of an organized religion.

While I don't think there is any harm in her reciting a prayer, I am concerned that this preschool is taking it upon themselves to provide religious education when I did not sign up for it. I will not be witholding religion from my children, should they desire to study it, but I wasn't planning on introducing it until they could understand the conversations we may have about it.

I am torn however, if I should let this go, or say something to the teacher about being sensitive to the fact that not all of the children in her class believes as she does. I don't want to upset her, or get her in trouble, but I also don't really want her providing a religious education for my child without my knowledge or consent. Particularly because it was never mentioned in the curriculum or tour when I signed up for this school. I chose it specifically because it was secular.

What would you do?
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Old 08-15-2007, 10:22 PM
 
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I couldn't be the first one to read and not post, I would talk to her about it, in private, and let her know how you feel. Religion is a very personal thing, and she should know better than to share her religious beliefs with such young children, especially when, as you said, the pre-school is a secular one. I would be furious, but only because I am not a big fan of prostilizing (SP?) in any way. Maybe she was making a prayer for herself and the child overheard it, but in any case, I think in this setting, especially, it is inappropriate to share such things, and I don't see how she could be unaware of this... is she an older or younger woman....and I should have asked this first, but what did the prayer entail?

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Old 08-15-2007, 10:29 PM - Thread Starter
 
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The prayer (in three year old mumbo-jumbo) goes something like "God is great, God is good, thank you for this food" It's the very common prayer often used before eating. My kiddo recites in in such a way (the singsong voice) that I think the kids are saying it all at the same time.

The teacher is perhaps in her twenties? Maybe early 30's?
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Old 08-15-2007, 10:33 PM
 
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Well, I wouldn't like it and I'd tell the teacher how I felt.
Since your daughter is so young, she may not have any clue what she's saying.
Bringing up a conversation about it may lead to nothing at all.
But I would open up a way for your daughter to start the conversation in case she does have a question.

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Old 08-15-2007, 11:05 PM
 
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Personally, I would be livid.
I wouldn't express that to my child however and I would take it up with the teacher and basically explain in a calm straight forward manner.
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Old 08-15-2007, 11:28 PM
 
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I would bring it up if you have a problem with it.

Would you be okay with a blessing (not prayer) that doesn't mention god? There was a thread a couple months ago where people shared thier mealtime prayers/blessings, with many nice options. I've also seen some nice blessings at the waldorf homeschoolers site... I'll see if I can find a link.
http://www.waldorfhomeschoolers.com/blessings.htm

I personally think that a blessing before meals is a good way to help children learn mindfulness and gratitude. But I'd be willing to bet that the teacher didn't realize some families might be uncomfortable with the mention of god.

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Old 08-15-2007, 11:46 PM
 
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I'd be ticked and I'd let the director know that I was ticked and that you specifically sought out a secular preschool.

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Old 08-16-2007, 01:00 AM
 
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I would be annoyed and I would mention it, first to the teacher and then if necessary to the director.

I think that a pre-snack ritual is lovely and meaningful, but does not have to mention God (and indeed, at a non-affiliated preschool, should not do so).
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Old 08-16-2007, 01:06 AM
 
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I'd be angry too! I chose DD's preschool specifically because I was sure they were sensitive about this kind of thing. We live in a very religious part of the country and it's important to me that DD doesn't have this pushed on her before I can explain things well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by annethcz View Post
I would bring it up if you have a problem with it.

Would you be okay with a blessing (not prayer) that doesn't mention god? There was a thread a couple months ago where people shared thier mealtime prayers/blessings, with many nice options. I've also seen some nice blessings at the waldorf homeschoolers site... I'll see if I can find a link.
http://www.waldorfhomeschoolers.com/blessings.htm

I personally think that a blessing before meals is a good way to help children learn mindfulness and gratitude. But I'd be willing to bet that the teacher didn't realize some families might be uncomfortable with the mention of god.
This is what they use at my DD's Walforf oriented preschool. I specifically chose this school because it was not religious, but I'm fine with this.
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Old 08-16-2007, 10:14 AM
 
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I would be angry and I'd say something to the teacher before another day passed.
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Old 08-16-2007, 11:06 AM
 
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and i would either talk to her directly, or to the director. there is a reason why you put her in that school specifically, and if you wanted her to learn to recite prayers, then you would have her in a religious school.
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Old 08-16-2007, 12:10 PM
 
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I'd be annoyed too. To put it in another persepctive, think how many people would be complaining if the teacher did some kind of Pagan or Buddhist blessing.

It's easy enough to find something to say that doesn't mention God. How about that one that goes "Through the lips and over the tongue, look out stomach, here it comes!" (or whatever it is)

But seriously, our preschool has the kids say some kind of grace like "Thank you for the food we eat, thank you for the friends we meet, thank you for (something else) thank you for this happy day."

Now some people might interpret this as thanking God but since they don't say God at all, you can also look at it as thanking the teachers, KWIM?
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Old 08-16-2007, 12:15 PM
 
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I would be furious, as an atheist, and I would talk to the teacher right away.

The charter school we're planning to send the kids to says a "thank you to the earth" kind of thing before eating, but it's not at all religious and it goes with the core curriculum which involves a huge focus on environmentalism.

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Old 08-16-2007, 12:32 PM
 
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If it were a public school, she'd be fired, and rightly so I think. Religion belongs in the home and in the church of YOUR choice (if you choose a church at all), not in a secular school. I'd request that she stop the prayer immediately and if she didn't I'd take it to the principal and higher if necessary.
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Old 08-16-2007, 12:36 PM
 
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At my daughter's preschool, they are very careful to only use poems or songs that are vague and non-sectarian - def. no mention of God per se. There are plenty of such things out there that are appropriate for use before eating - should be no problem for your daughter's teacher to find one once she's aware she' s making someone uncomfortable. I think at my daughter's preschool they use it more as a way of making sure the kids wait until everyone is together to eat.
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Old 08-16-2007, 01:55 PM
 
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I'd be very angry; that teacher's actions were completely inappropriate. There is no way I would be able to let it go.
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Old 08-16-2007, 03:38 PM
 
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I'd suggest that she switch to something else. She is being presumptious.

My children's daycare instead uses, "We sit quite still and softly say thank you for our food today. Let's eat."
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Old 08-16-2007, 03:44 PM
 
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The whole "thank you" thing is odd to me... who exactly are we thanking? I know someone said the teacher but in DS's preschool, the parents provide the snack on a rotating basis. The parent is not usually there, so saying "thank you" to someone who is not there seems a little strange.

Maybe saying something like "We are grateful for this food" would be better.

Anyway - I wouldn't be upset personally, though I would think it was presumptuous and I can totally understand how someone *would* be upset. I don't think it should be done without everyone being on board with it. Since you chose a secular preschool deliberately, I do think you should speak to someone about it. The teacher should be made aware of the fact that not everyone is OK with praying to God in school! : (How she could not be aware of this already is beyond me)
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Old 08-16-2007, 04:06 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheDivineMissE View Post
The prayer (in three year old mumbo-jumbo) goes something like "God is great, God is good, thank you for this food" It's the very common prayer often used before eating. My kiddo recites in in such a way (the singsong voice) that I think the kids are saying it all at the same time.

The teacher is perhaps in her twenties? Maybe early 30's?
The very same thing took place with my DS when he was about two and attending daycare. The very same prayer even.
I told the director, very calmly, that we were not christian and did not engage in christian prayers. Furthermore that she, as the director, has a responsibility of informing me if she plans on providing religious instruction so that I have ample time to find another daycare and withdraw my son.
As far as I know the praying stopped that day. I will admit fully that as a pagan I have a HUGE chip on my shoulder when it comes to me or my children being in a situation where christian practices are foisted on us. I understand where you are coming from. I get that it is healthy for children to learn to have gratitude for what they have in their lives, including food, but that can easily be incorporated at circle time ( let's share something we are happy about today) or simply saying " yay we have yummy food to eat today!!!" at snack time. I see no need to "thank" anyone for being alive and taking sustenance for my body.

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Old 08-16-2007, 04:22 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheDivineMissE View Post
The prayer (in three year old mumbo-jumbo) goes something like "God is great, God is good, thank you for this food" It's the very common prayer often used before eating. My kiddo recites in in such a way (the singsong voice) that I think the kids are saying it all at the same time.

The teacher is perhaps in her twenties? Maybe early 30's?
Before you go any further, make sure it's coming from the teacher and not just a companion sitting at the table. I would go in very non-confrontational and explain the situation to her. If it is the teacher teaching it, then she will understand. If it's a child saying it and your dd picking that up, then it opens the door for further conversation about religion between you and your dd.
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Old 08-16-2007, 04:29 PM
 
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I agree with calmly reminding the teacher that it is a secular school so the prayer that the little ones are saying is inappropriate. BUT I think a “grateful for this food” acknowledgment is great…I’d make that suggestion personally.
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Old 08-16-2007, 05:22 PM
 
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We are an agnostic family. They say a snacktime prayer at DD's preschool. It really doesn't bother me much. We live in an area that is predominantly chiristian, and as far as I know, all of DD's friends are from religious families, so school definately wasn't the first time she'd heard a prayer or heard someone speak of God.

She has often asked why we don't pray and why we don't go to church. And we have told her, that some people believe in God, but that we don't know if he is real. So far she has been satisfied with this answer and hasn't really pushed any further, mainly because growing up in an agnostic family hasn't sparked any conversation of God or other deities.

She has occassionally at mealtime asked if we could say a prayer. And, rather than tell her no, DH or I often make up a prayer thanking the farmers and the earth for our food, thanking whomever prepared our food, etc. If you are truly upset over the prayer and the mention of God, then by all means you should say something. It is your right as a parent.
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Old 08-16-2007, 06:23 PM
 
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I would pull my daughter out of the preschool and want a refund for that month. I spent a LOT of money on preschool to avoid a religious one, personally, and if I saw religious education happening there even though I paid roughly five times what the church-affiliated ones here charge, I would be furious.
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Old 08-16-2007, 08:31 PM
 
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Yeah, that wouldn't be okay with me at all. We're not religious, but I'm sending DS to a church-based preschool, so obviously I'm agreeing to let him participate in some religious activities, but if I had selected a secular preschool, I'd be quite upset if any religious activities were going on.

Since you're not sure exactly what happened, I'd take a benefit-of-the-doubt approach and just ask the teacher nicely where your DD picked up that rhyme. If the teacher says that she teaches that in the classroom, I'd definitely suggest eliminating the practice or using an alternative. I would also point out that you specifically chose a secular school under the assumption that it would not involve any religious teachings, and express your disappointment that the teacher took it upon herself to introduce religion with your child without your consent. That's just not okay -- I can't believe she has to be told that.

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Old 08-16-2007, 10:11 PM
 
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That would be very awkward, but, as an atheist, I wouldn't want the subject of god coming up at preschool at all. To me, it would be like someone praying to Zeus or Satan in front of my child.

If it was really awkward when I talked to the teacher, I would pull my Dd from the class. I don't want my Dd taught to be superstitious.
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Old 08-17-2007, 04:31 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheDivineMissE View Post
The prayer (in three year old mumbo-jumbo) goes something like "God is great, God is good, thank you for this food" It's the very common prayer often used before eating. My kiddo recites in in such a way (the singsong voice) that I think the kids are saying it all at the same time.
Do you know the entire lyric for the prayer? Because at my daughter's daycare, the song goes like this:

God is great, God is good, and we thank him for our food. We thank him in the morning, noon, and night, 'cause our Lord God is out of sight. Amen. Shakka shakka shakka. Amen. Shakka shakka shakka. Amen. Yaaayyyy!

You see, since your school is secular, I would be livid, and I would even go so far as to bypass the teacher and go straight to the director.

My daughter goes to a Christian daycare, and even though we are not seriously practicing Christians, I went into it knowing that they do make reference to the Christian faith, so naturally I don't put up a fuss over this prayer. You, on the other hand, are in a totally different situation because your child goes to a secular daycare. If the prayer that your child is saying is the same as mine does, then your daycare is presuming to give religious instruction without clearing it with you. At my daughter's daycare, they sing this prayer three times a day (morning snack, lunch, and afternoon snack) starting from the age of 9 months. So it really is indoctrination, because the children certainly don't realize that prayer is supposed to be communication with God, they just think it is a fun pre-food ritual. I think even some Christians might disaprove of this approach.
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Old 08-17-2007, 05:11 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Update:

So I stopped at the front desk on the way out from dropping off the kiddo. I casually threw in "Hey, do the kids say a prayer at meals?" when I saw the director. We had a pretty nice conversation actually.

It turns out, all of the kids do in fact say a prayer at meal times - in all the classes. So it's not her teacher alone. They said that they do not teach any other religious curriculum with the exception of various religious holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc. They said there are families which do not want their kids participating in these things - including reciting the Pledge as it contains mention of God. They allow the kids to opt out of anything they want to.

So, while it kind of twerked me (and I told them this), I see that by not allowing her to participate I am forcing my personal beliefs on her just like they would be if they forced her to participate. It's her decision, and I guess it's time to start teaching her theology so that eventually she can make an informed one at least.

By the way, I did talk to the kiddo about God the other night. The conversation went like this:

Me - "So E, who is God?"
Her - "He's lives at the waterpark." (her school has a waterpark)
Me - "Oh? And what sort of things does God say?"
Her - "He says not to run or jump in the water!"

So perhaps our religious education needs to wait another year or two.
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Old 08-17-2007, 06:10 PM
 
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Wow, I was going to post that I am athiest, but wouldn't be that upset about it. I would just kindly ask the teacher to stop using the prayer, considering it is a non-religious school.

Then I read your last post. So the kids can opt-out? How cheeky! As in: I am only 5, don't understand god anyway, trying to fit in, and my 15 classmates are going to sing this little song before we eat, but I need to be quiet and stick out like a sore thumb! You are kidding me. This is throwing what they should not be doing right back into your face.

Had it been the first scenario, it probably could have been camly resolved in one day. Now if you go along, you are buckling under the system. If you stand up to their incorrect behaviour, it is actually your DC that has to do the standing up. I'd be ticked and approach this again with the director.
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Old 08-17-2007, 06:10 PM
 
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LOL
So, as far as your daughter is concerned, god is a lifegaurd.

gaurd - god: merely a misunderstanding of the pronunciation of similar-sounding words.



Yep, I'd say it can wait.

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Old 08-17-2007, 06:14 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AllisonR View Post
So the kids can opt-out? How cheeky! As in: I am only 5, don't understand god anyway, trying to fit in, and my 15 classmates are going to sing this little song before we eat, but I need to be quiet and stick out like a sore thumb! You are kidding me. This is throwing what they should not be doing right back into your face.

Now if you go along, you are buckling under the system. If you stand up to their incorrect behaviour, it is actually your DC that has to do the standing up. I'd be ticked and approach this again with the director.
Yes, that is what I was thinking.
They are essentially forcing your daughter to be a social outcast if she chooses to not go with the 'norm'.
I think it would have been more appropriate if the took all forced religion out of the school, yet allowed those who choose to express prayer to do so on their own, the way they want.
Rather than the reverse.

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