I am a mother of a seven year old First Grader.

I have a parent teacher meeting tomorrow, and I plan on discussing our family beliefs with his teacher.

What is allowed in Texas public schools?

He is coming home, saying, he needs new parents because we do not believe in god. When I tell him, we believe otherwise. He says, his teachers know more than us, as they are teachers. The music class is currently singing, You are our Heroes by Teresa Jennings, which has "We know God blesses you" repeated throughout. He brought home an art project two weeks ago about the Texas flag that had the quote, 'whose people believe in God, a supreme being'

A few weeks ago, on the highway home from tennis, I was merging over, and he says I don't need to look, God will watch us. I said, no, we need to use common sense to stay safe. He responds.. I know, I know, you don't believe. I said, How do you know so sure, he said his teacher read it from, 'the book' that tells him its real. I said, anyone can write a book. There are lots of stories out there. He has been saying that his previous teacher read from 'the book' that tells him god is real and that he knows it in his heart god is real. --- My seven year old does not talk like this!

This is public school. Do I have any rights other than talking to the school and having them sit him out and tell him he can't sing with his class because your parents don't allow it. We don't have many choices being a military family, as to where we live. I originally from Southern California, and the overly religious neighbors, teachers, and community members is something I never had to experience growing up. Home school is not an option as I work full-time, nor should it have to be. Any suggestions?

All of this began in June- His swim teacher lets him choose from a treasure box after class. He chose a rainbow bracelet which said, I love God. He asked me to read it to him in the car. I said, well, you know, Mom and Dad don't believe there is a God, we believe in Science. And he responded that he will need new parents, because his teacher told him there is a God. I said, Mom and Dad, have more education than your teacher... and he insists that because she is a teacher, she knows more, therefore what she says is truth. We didn't like this, but we let it go, as it was summer, and didn't feel there was much we could do but now it is continuing, and I feel coming from all different angles.

I am concerned with how defiant he is becoming on the issue. My kid, can't chose between baseball and soccer, he likes them equal. He likes both his summer camp counselors equal... yet, he is so sure there is a god because his teachers say so.

When I brought up to his current teacher I wanted to have a meeting,I noticed she was wearing religious jewelry. It appears besides, the art work, and music class.. that much is from last years teacher. But I want to make it clear, that we don't like gender stereotypes that Texas LOVES so much, and we also don't want religion to be part of his public school curriculum.

What is allowed in public schools, what are my rights as a parent.

Thank you,
Sorry if this was so long!

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What you are talking about is something I worry about every day.  My son is only 2 years old right now but we live in a religion dominated area.  I do not look forward to things like you are describing, which I’m sure are in our future.  I talk myself down by trying to keep a few things in perspective:

He’s 7 years old.  All kids go through phases of make-believe, imaginary friends, Santa Claus, and the Tooth Fairy.  Kids go through it and grow out of it. Don’t panic because he’s exposed to ideas about god.  You were never going to be able to avoid that anyway.  Be patient.  Eventually things will start to not add up in his mind and he will start to ask questions about whether it’s real.  Even then I wouldn’t jump in with the answers.  Respond with questions to make him think.  “What makes you think it’s not real?”  “That makes sense.  You might be right.”   

Your kid spends most of his time at that school.  Don’t make it more difficult than it already is for him by alienating him from his teachers and peers.  Remember, your goal is a happy, intelligent, well-adjusted kid.  Not to win the crusade against religious oppression.  Don’t let him become a pawn in that game.  And don’t get into a who’s smarter contest with his teachers.  That will put him in a position of having to choose between you.

Teach him how to think, not what to think.  Reinforce the value in questioning everything.  When he’s in the mood to discuss it, ask questions that make him think for himself.  “Why do YOU believe it?”  If he’s not in the mood to discuss, don’t force it.  If you try to make him think what you think he might commit to the opposite just because. 

I guarantee, if you teach him to question everything and think for himself, and give him time, he will come around to the truth.

One more thing. Teachers and schools come and go, but you will always be mom. Be calm and confident, and play the long game.
Welcome, Heather, to Think Atheist. Whilst you wait for other responses from members, might I suggest you have a wade through past topics on the forums? The school issue in the USA is a nightmare, isn't it? I know we have had several topics posted that address this very problem.

You did remind me of my sisters childhood experience (aged about 5 or 6), when she came rushing across the road without looking to meet our mother. Mum was horrified and told her not to do that ever again because she could get run over. "Oh it's ok, mummy, if I die I'll go to be with baby jesus". Mum stormed into the school and demanded the teacher repair this dangerous misconception at once.

I think you can address that point with the teacher, as your son seems to have the same attitude my sister had (some 45 years ago). Death doesn't matter if baby J is there to catch you.

As far as what is legally permissible and what is actually carried out in schools, there appears to be a huge gap. However, I'll let our more experienced members chip in on useful suggestions.

Do scan through those old forum posts - most probably in the Advice section :)

Hi Heather and welcome to TA. As you are in Texas you could get in touch with Aron Ra, of American Atheists. He is the Texas State Director and works extremely hard to promote rational non-religious education. I was fortunate to “share a few beers” with him. He knows his stuff. He mentioned that while the Evangelicals are very keen to promote the teaching of Creationism some of them have admitted that they know it is BS but take the money. Here he is talking in Dublin recently. You could get in touch with the Texas branch of American Atheists.  

This website is for Godless Mom’s

These books are good;

Parenting Beyond Belief and Raising Freethinkers.

Great idea about talking to Aron! I think his wife is also involved with secularism in schools and/or textbooks, or something.

Yes, Lilandra Ra is her name. When I met her she had a dress covered in DNA spirals which were a match for one of my tattoos. She is behind "Answers in Science" a site that was started to counter the Ken Ham creationist nonsense.

 

This should be broached with the relevant Board of Education, for sure. And if they don't act, then perhaps the ACLU. 

This is why I identify with atheism. I believe even Dr. Bob would be on your side, in this matter.

I wish I had simple advice, but seven years old is an age where the importance of support and belonging should not be underestimated, especially for family. My younger daughter didn't act happy about her parents when she was young, and I was happy that she did so well in school and had such great friends there. We were also lucky that religion almost never came up as an issue, so I don't have any quick answers, but (as Erock says), I'd be thinking hard about "long term".

I can't help but compare this topic to something like belief in Santa Claus and tooth fairies, except for the long term pressure in every society in the world to keep believing in a religious myth through adulthood. I would somehow do my best to help him feel comfortable and encourage him to let people believe what they want to believe, until he gets older. My focus at times was to read in bed to my kids about other myths around the world, in a respectable and "isn't that interesting" kind of way.

Ugh.  Even as the resident theist I find this intrusive and obnoxious. 

Your complaint route is to the Federal Office for Civil Rights, part of the Department of Education.   I would encourage you to file the complaint.  They will investigate, and the penalties include loss of all federal funding for the school district, so schools tend to wake up and pay attention.  You can also mention that you may/will file an OCR complaint as a means to try to leverage the school district to behave better, but I'm honestly skeptical. 

Are there any private or charter schools in the area that may be an alternative?   Often private schools can provide scholarship support and may well be open to your situation.  The National Association of Independent Schools is one source for private schools that generally have strong academic programs and tend to be secular in their academic programming.

Hi Heather Marie, As a site moderator I have taken the liberty of editing your post to remove the name of the school. How did the school meeting work out for you?

I am a mother of a seven year old First Grader

I am the mother of a 6 year old first grader! LOL!! I'm guessing he was a summer baby if he's already 7? My son is an August baby so he just BARELY turned 6. I LOVE connecting with other Atheist mothers!!

From what it sounds like you've described, there are two things that jump straight out at me here.

1. Your son seems to be talking back to you an awful lot in a somewhat disrespectful manner. Does this happen with other topics or just related to religion?? That's the place I would start to begin to hash this out. I would look at that first. I think your way of explaining it to him needs to be a little different. Instead of saying something like "We know more than your teacher," I would start to ask HIM questions and have HIM answer them. Instead of TELLING him what to believe, let him discover things on his own. For example you might say, "What do YOU think about that?" and let him think about it. When he gives you an answer ask him, "Why do you think that?" Ask him questions about his own thought process and let him ponder some things on his own. don't be too quick to say, "No, no, no, that's not right..." out of fear that he'll go down the wrong path, lol...he's going through a process of discovery. HELP him go through that process without spoonfeeding him information, but give him a safe environment he can explore the answers in for himself. You also don't want him to become fearful of talking to you about religion....

2. You are right in saying you should not have to choose between sports teams, or even between public and homeschool. You should keep sending him to public school because it's what your family needs to do. You don't want to shelter him from the environment he's growing up in, but give him the tools to be able to withstand it.

Let me illustrate an example: I went to my friend's house the other day and watched her kids with my own son. She lives in the ghetto. Straight poverty ridden area, like the type of place I grew up. I took the kids outside to play. There were other kids outside and it wasn't long before some of the boys in the area were bullying the girl I was watching, who is in 3rd grade. She came to me and told me what they were doing.

At this point I had a choice. I could have gone over to the kids who were being little brats and given them a "talking to" which may have started controversy with their parents....Instead I talked to the little girl and gave HER some tools to withstand the bullying. I said, "Don't let his words get you down. That little boy is being mean to you because he's trying to intimidate you. He doesn't have right to do that to you....Now, you and your friend go about your own business and do not pay any attention to his words. I am watching you to make sure you are safe, and I won't let anything happen to you." So what' I'm saying I didn't shelter her from the turmoil and say, "Oh, no he's being mean, let's go inside!" Instead I explained the situation and gave the kids the tools to think clearly about what was going on.

I think if you do the same thing with your son you'll be pleasantly surprised. Don't shelter him!!....that's the worst thing you can do. Instead, equip him with everything he needs to withstand what he has to face at school. And don't feel like you shouldn't participate in community events or school functions just because everyone and their grandmother is religious. Stand your ground, but don't isolate yourselves or your son from the community. Don't compromise your integrity either. Just be who you are, and show your son by example that you can be good without god. Your actions will always speak louder than words anyway....

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