(This is a Blog post I will put up in a few places to get a healthy variety of opinions, both religious and non religious,
I would ask if you are in any way religious to put yourself in my position by imagining that the only schooling available
to your child taught a different religion than the one you are. Also please mention your religious beliefs in your post so
I can more easily see "where everyone is coming from" Thank you for your reply and help)


It's that time for me, a time I had been looking forward to and dreading since she was born. Caitlin needs to be enrolled in public school to start Grade 0 next year.


I am lucky that bacuse we live with my dad in a little house they bought a decade ago, in what was then a new development, and what has become quite a safe, and good neighbourhood, that the closest public school is also known as one of the best in this region.


Going through the 100's of forms ( some of them involving selling my soul into permanent bondage if I ever can not pay them) the inevitable question always comes up. The one I had been dreading and could have such a huge impact on her life.


Firstly it is asked " Religion?" hmmmm first instinct is "None", in which case it might most probably be assumed we don't care, or we are godless lazy creatures, who are really undiscovered Christians, as long as someone manages to convert us from lazing in bed all sunday morning instead of getting off our behinds and going to church. (You'd be surprised how many Christians around me actually think this)


Second option: Secular Humanist. If I am lucky I might find a teacher who knows what this entails in it's entirety. In that case I hope they tell me as well, as it is just a term I recently adopted because of the wiki page putting this in as part of the definition:

"Fundamental to the concept of Secular Humanism is the strongly held belief that ideology — be it religious or political — must be thoroughly examined by each individual and not simply accepted or rejected on faith"


Ok so let's leave the "religion" question there. Now comes the Doozy. Next conundrum and the true test of my child's future influences lie in this easy little question:


" Do you have any objections to your child partcipating in any religious activities?"

If YES, please furnish reasons.


Now firstly I need to now what do these religious activities entail? Will there be forced bible reading, lively questioning? Will it be more moral or more religious? Will there be forced prayer and false piety?


What happens if I state Yes I object? Will she be rejected by her peers as strange and weird? Will she be rejected and targetted by teachers for the same reasons?


I've always said I will allow her to make up her own mind one day. but In my opinion I will be doing her an injustice to allow her to be subjected to the same kind of brainwashing that I was as a child and teen.In order to find one's own truth one needs to be educated on all the available options. Somehow I doubt this is done properly in most schools.


I wouldn't mind her receiving religious education that is educational, factual, and discusses the main religions and their similarities and differences. But I don't think I want her to take part in any form of worship activities.In her current school there is a huge preponderance of religious worship, they barely do secular nursery rhymes and stories, most of it is focussed on religious stories and songs.


I was never made aware of this before enrolling her, and obviously I am scared of the Primary school taking the same sneaky approach, or just assuming that this is okay with everyone, when it clearly isn't.


Maybe I must just included a whole letter stating more clearly what our beliefs are or rather aren't? Or finally take the time to thing and write down a kind of personal manifesto of beliefs which I can attatch.


Or do you think I am making too much of this and should just let her be shepherded along with the other sheep and hope she doesn't get too brainwashed?


Oh and unlike the USA, South African schools can and do offer religious teachings as long as they are in line with this Draft policy on Education ( which I have heard is not enforcable as it is only a draft policy, and which many schools have been known to ignore)


Unfortunately my only other choice in school is much more openly Christian, even though they are also a public school. At least this one gives me a choice. The other automatically assume that one is a Christian.


What I wish for is not only Freedom of Religion in all governments and school, But Freedom FROM Religion


(After posting this in a South African Parenting Forum, that I have been a member of since it's start more than 4 years ago. I realised that there seems to be much misunderstanding between the term, Non-Religious, and non-practising religious/christian. It seems some people confuse Non-theism and non-religion, with religious apathy, when this is one thing I am Definitely not. I also realised once again just How VERY important the subject is for me. I decided to share it here, in order to help even more people, who like me, might be facing some of the same issues.)

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Replies to This Discussion

Thanks Dawn, that was helpful. I don't know how much different things are in MA from NJ, but I don't know how comfortable I would be with my kids just "hanging out" with the other local boys around the neighborhood. I think I might prefer that they have a more structured environment, but, I am open to new ideas. I made some very close, lifelong friends from my years in middle school and high school, and I would like my kids to get the same sort of experiences, but I also want them to get a quality education that I am involved with, so, I dunno, a lot of hard choices coming up for our family I guess. Thanks again.

It really depends on the neighborhood you live in. We lived near Buffalo and the 'hood was very different, everyone kept to themselves, the street had more traffic, more densely populated etc. My kids were younger and I didn't really trust the adults - they seemed so uninvolved many of them. I know we are very lucky to live where we do now. The kids play in different yards each day and the parents are involved enough to be within earshot if needed. Mostly I'm amazed at what kids can do if you give them a little space to be free from us adults.


I have a different experience I guess about friends in school - there isn't anyone I still keep in touch with. So it's always a question, friends can be found anywhere and sometimes not where you expect them to be. :)

Our neighborhood is quite strange, as in very very diverse. There is a huge Muslim population, and these people are from all over the world - India (yes Indian Muslims), Pakistan, Indonesia, Palestine, etc. Then there are the Christians, black and white, and they are both very different groups as well. I think its great to have exposure to many different cultures as a kid, so it would be great for my kids, but interacting with the parents is often trickier than I would like it to be. I don't have any problem with them other than that they would have a problem with me if they knew I was atheist. So that is why I am on here! We will actually be moving soon anyway, so we'll see if I like the new neighbors any better. Still, it sounds as if your neighborhood is very nice indeed, I don't expect to meet with as much good luck. But I could be wrong.

(butting in, sorry)  We've done sports, dance lessons, art classes, Girl Scouts (turned out they were the god scouts though ;o( )  and this summer we are trying 4-H.  Now, 4-H is a program sponsored by the Dept. of Agriculture, so it should be entirely secular.  We're still avoiding the groups who meet in a church. 


I don't know if your kids have a Leapster, but I swear my kids have learned to read on them.  I have not had such good luck with the Leapster and math. :o/  A lot of kids with autism seem to really bond to computers.  My girls really enjoying the gaming learning of Leapster.  I have not tried Diji.  I heard that it wasn't as good as the Leapster. 


One of our problems with traditional schools was not enough emphasis on computers.   It seems like everywhere we go, the public schools have their heads in the sand where computers are concerned - like if they ignore computers and pretend they don't exist, they will go away.  Whatever.  Computers are the future. Kids who know computers have an advantage, I think, anyway. 

Thanks Grace. Yeah I looked into the Leapster, it definitely looks like something that would be good for my kids. I want to get it but money is tight right now. Maybe in a few months, but I wish I could get it for them right now. Good discussion, thanks a lot!

There is not a whole lot of difference between the Leapster 1 and the Leapster 2.  I think the Leapster 2 is a little more durable.  They claim there's all these expanded games for the Leapster 2, but the only extra you really get is when the kid gets enough points, you plug the Leapster into the internet and can print out some coloring pages.  I was very disappointed that was all there was to it.  The Leapster 1 you can often find at around $30, but watch the Target ads, they put the Leap Frog products on sale more than other sellers.  It bites you have to keep buying the dang game cartridges, though,  They are about $20-$24 each.  After Christmas, you can sometimes pick them up cheap. 


The Leapster is great when you are stuck spending a lot of time waiting or driving.  It keeps the child quiet and happy which can be a real plus when driving. 


I don't know how much your trust your kids with your computer, but my kids love PBS Kids and Brain Pop.  I don't have a membership to Brain Pop, but they can still watch the movies.  I think Sesame Street has a webpage with games and so does Nick Jr. 

Wow, what a rip! I hate it when companies do that. Can't trust any of them, they are only out to turn a buck. So thanks for the heads up, I definitely want to get one but another reason I haven't yet is that I'm afraid he will throw and break it as he does with so many of his other toys. Maybe when I can trust him not to do that. And yes, we do check out Nick Jr online, but its not as good as it was when it was Noggin. I'll check out the rest of those sites as well. Thanks so much!
We through the throwing, dropping it in the toilet (which did kill it, btw), once the youngest one filled the top of it with hand sanitizer.  I think we have gone through  at least 3 or 4 of them.  The Leapster 2 is more resistant to rough treatment.  We bought one pink one and it was not nearly as tough as the green one.



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