We live in a very small (minute!) community in rural eastern Texas.  The school district here is highly regarded, and we were initially looking forward to our oldest daughter starting there, which she did in 2009.  We knew that she would encounter religion (there's a church on every corner around here), and we talked to her about it beforehand.   Kindergarten was fine...Jesus came up amongst her classmates a few times, but she simply told her friends that our family didn't believe in those things, and that was the end of it. First grade (which she just finished) was another story.


These are the kinds of incidences that make me worry about next year:


1. When I stop by to sign her out for doctor's appointments, etc...I notice that the principal's office is decorated with religious claptrap.    So I certainly don't feel that she'll be open to my concerns about the following:


2.  Around Thanksgiving, I picked her up from school, and she was near tears.  When I asked her what was wrong, she told me that they had drawn hand turkeys (you know...where the thumb is the head and the fingers are the tail feathers).  On each feather, they were told to write something that they were thankful for.  My girl had written things like "mom", "dad", "the earth".  Real things.  Then one of her "friends" told her that if she didn't write "Jesus" on one of her feathers, then GOD WOULD EAT HER.  She was so terrified that she erased "earth" and wrote "Jesus".  She was quietly crying on the way home.   I was livid, but tried to calmly explain that religious people sometimes get carried away.  Of course, I assured her that nobody was going to eat her...least of all an imaginary god.  Then we changed the turkey.


3.  Her reading teacher, who apparently also taught a few "science" lessons, showed a video in class.  It was supposed to be about space, the solar system...all that good stuff.  My daughter is very interested in space, so she was excited.  She came home telling us all about the video....and, in particular, one part about a glowing rock in space where we all go when we die. What?!  At this point, I wanted to go have a talk with the teachers...but we're very worried about making our daughter a target of religious discrimination, so we decided to let it go.  We thought maybe the teacher had selected that video in a hurry from YouTube, and hadn't watched it all before showing it to the class.   We talked to our daughter about it again, but left it at that.


4.  Then the same teacher told the entire class, a few weeks later, that when you're sick you should pray to God to make you better.  Groan.  Another talk.


Among her classmates, of course, she's been hearing the usual talk about Jesus.   She rarely mentions it, except in passing.  BUT, while cleaning out my car last weekend, I glanced through a notebook that I keep in there for her to scribble in.  On  one page was a Cupid heart...with "GSES" written above it.  Don't know when she did it (and the spelling is flat-out hilarious)...but it would seem that the noise she's hearing at school is seeping in.  Of course, she also draw pictures of unicorns and stuff...but she believes those are real, too (and since there's no harm in unicorns, or the tooth fairy, we let her.  Religion is another thing altogether). 


Our tactic has been to discuss it occasionally and to welcome her questions, but otherwise to treat it as a non-issue.  That may not be the best way.  We want to behave as though we're tolerant of others' beliefs for now, because we don't want her declaring intellectual war on her classmates and teachers...especially since she's just not equipped to fight those battles at age 7 (and her classmates are no doubt armed with Sunday school dogma).  We don't want her to be a social pariah...or for her teachers to be prejudiced against her because she comes from a family of atheists. 


I've seriously considered taking her out and homeschooling her...


What do you all do when this stuff happens? 





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OK, First of all, don't panic, because kids her age don't know the difference between what's real and what isn't yet.  I am in Florida, and our public school is the same.  I use what arsenal is available to me as a parent.  I have many books that are my children's age level that are about the origins of life,as well as humanist and atheist books designed for kids.  We even listen to kids music in the car that is atheistic (They might be Giants has a great one that is called "Here Comes Science" The lyrics in the first song say "I like the stories about angels, unicorns and elves, now I like those stories just as much as anybody else, but, when I'm seeking knowledge, even simple or abstract, the proof is with science, the truth is with science. Science is real..."  I guess what I am saying that if this seems like a battle, it is.  It's ok to talk about the baby Jesus at Christmastime if she brings it up. (my kids preschool made a big deal about the baby Jesus, and my daughter was thrilled with it).  It's a nice story, just like santa clause or the tooth fairy, or any other number of disney movies. you simply tell her it's a nice story.  If your reaction is one of anger, she is going to be afraid to talk to you later about these things.  Tell her all you know about it instead, and she will be the wiser one.  When she is old enough, teach her about religions, about all of them. That in itself will seem ridiculous, I'm thinking.  Above all, teach her humanist values and to question everything.  Talk, talk,talk, in a loving kind way about it all.  It's a long road and she is still young.  Once my other daughter talked about angels, and I piped in, "Angels are cool-looking, aren't they? It's too bad there aren't any REAL angels, because I'd love to have those wings."  I do what I can when the opportunity arises.  If you teach them Humanist values, they will be ok.  I hope that helps.

Texas eh! Well this is a bit of a disapointment then,


prayer will continue after a government appeal

I'm sorry to hear you are in this predicament.  the only thing she should be worrying about is who to share crayons with and who will be on the other side of the teeter totter. I swing back and forth on how to deal with the religious people around my daughter.  On the one hand I want her to show respect for others beliefs but I also want her to stand up for what she thinks. Homeschooling is always an option but you may just be swapping one problem for another. My step daughter who lives with her mother is home schooled and while she isn't exposed to some of the more disturbing aspects of others beliefs she has absolutely no clue how to deal with the differences when she is presented with them.  It severely limited the chances she had to practice the skills that will get her through those differences.  She's ten and in many ways she is less socially developed then my six year old.  


I taught my daughter a way to divert the conversation by just acknowledging what the kid said with a nod and bringing up another subject like her favorite movie.  For the little one who told her that god would eat her I would have just told mine that it doesn't sound like a really nice thing for this god person to do.  I found that feigning puzzlement about why someone would say or do something really gets my daughter to open up and try to explain it.  Then simple questions like do you think that's a good thing and do you think she might be just scared about something that's not real will get my daughter to really think about the situation critically. Most of the time mine comes to the conclusion that the person didn't say something nice or true so can the comment can be ignored.  Even when mine didn't grasp that the god character isn't real appealing to a general sense of fairness would give her a feeling of security that no invisible person would come hurt her because she tries her best to be a good person.

Well I hope my experience helps some.  


Well a bit of sortta good news, in Canada we have no chruch-state separation, is isn't written in law the same as you folks down south.

I just attended my favorite daughters high school grad, the cap and gown ceremony. It is the first I have been to since my own, (it being a christian school things were different) and I was amazed, the only reference to god or religion was in the national anthem.  "God keep our land glorious and free!"  


No one offered a prayer nor was one scheduled.

Is this just a Yukon abberation? Do other canadian schools have similar problems as we see from our friends down south?


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