I’m a fairly new Baalat Teshuva and raising a daughter who is in elementary school.
My daughter, who seems committed to Judaism, goes to public school at this time. Here are several challenges that we have had in the short time since school started. For those of you who sent your kids or are sending your kids to public school, please share your experiences and what you have done in similar situations. Of course, these problems would be solved if she could attend a Jewish school or if we lived in an area highly populated by orthodox Jews, where there are lots of after-school activities for Frum kids, but in our particular situation, at this time, we don’t have those options. Perhaps we can help each other through these challenges, to raise Frum children despite their need to be in decidedly non-Jewish environments.
1) Some children have made fun of my daughter for dressing modestly- why does she wear long skirts? Because she is not American and other negative remarks.
2) The teacher wants my daughter to read secular material from a school list for her personal reading at home so that she can earn points and participate in “celebrations”.
This has three challenges- the reading material may not be appropriate by frum standards, secular reading at home takes away from the small window of opportunity to provide my daughter with opportunities for Jewish study (even fun Jewish reading) AND the celebrations are mixed-gender parties, social activities of a non-frum/non-Jewish nature, and outings. There will also be events at various times throughout the year to mark occasions and (non-Jewish holidays).
3) The class will also regularly receive rewards in the form of movies, which also may not be appropriate for a frum child (or possibly any young child).
4) If I ask that my daughter be allowed to not participate in activities and movies, how can I help her to not feel left out and different in a school setting where there are no other orthodox Jewish children or perhaps not even any other Jewish kids? I am concerned that that being Jewish and observant will not seem worth it to her after a while and she will just want to blend in. (We do go to shul in another city and she is able to go to Hebrew school and camp, B’ezrat Hashem, and have some friends there, but the distance prohibits much involvement during the week).
5) The boys and girls in the class must play sports together- such as dodge ball. Sitting together in class, working together, and spending the whole day together would seem to breed a familiarity between the boys and the girls that does not seem appropriate for a frum girl. How can I help her keep frum values in this situation and not go down the path taken by many girls in public school to get involved with boyfriends at a young age.
6) There is also the issue of absences for yomim tovim when the other kids go to school and then needing to make up massive amounts of work (mostly completing lots of worksheets).
7) The teacher is very focused on all children being included in all activities so that children will feel a part of the group, however, being a part of this group may not be beneficial from the point of view of raising a frum child and planning for a good shidduch and Torah life as an adult.
8) How can I help the teacher understand that, in all these issues, I am trying to raise my daughter in a very positive way and not trying make her seem different or separate her from the larger group and activities for negative reasons?
Thanks for any suggestions others may have. May all of our children have wonderful years at school and bring us lots of nachas in the years to come.