The Challenges of Raising a Daughter in Public School

Hi everyone,

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.


33 comments on “The Challenges of Raising a Daughter in Public School

  1. I don’t know if this will be beneficial in the least bit, but i suppose trying wont be too difficult. First of all, I’d like to blatantly point out that I’m not a aren’t, rather a 14 year old Baal Teshuva whose parents are still not frum. (Frum implying that maybe, one day b’ezras Hashem they will be). Anyway, I’ve attended public school all my life and new that I’m becoming more frum, it’s getting harder and harder. I can imagine how confusing it must be for your young daughter, considering the vulnerability of children here age. I’d honestly suggest sitting down with her and explaining the significance of doing what she’s doing. For example, children who are ffbs understand that they’re different from others and even at a young age will act accordingly. Talk to the teacher and remind her of your daughter’s observance. Maybe you could give your daughter small prizes if you hear that she turned out watching a goyishe movie or didn’t eat a treif candy. Over time, she will become accustomed to this. Im yirtzeh Hashem she will soon be among her own. I wish lots of luck to you and your family. I know how hard it is!

  2. Just to give my two cents..
    I am a BT and my parents have forced me to go to public school(I’m 16).

    I understand that your situation is EXCEEDINGLY difficult and there are many obstacles keeping you from placing your daughter in a jewish school, but I am telling you now that she does not belong in that school. It is damaging to see other kids participating in what seems like fun activities that are not appropriate for her.

    Also, when she is older going to public school and trying to live a frum life will literally became painful(trust me.)

    Besides getting mixed messages and being left out, your daughter is missing out on healthy interactions with girls her age from similar religious backgrounds. She needs to learn to love Judaism by observation, but right now she is basically living a double life(school secularism vs. home frumness).

    I know our situations are different because I have no other choice so I must face the music and live my “double life”, but your daughter is young and this reality may not be appropriate for her.

    If you cannot move to a more frum community is there any possibility that you can home school her for the time being?

    May Hashem help you raise your children with love and awe for the Torah and may they bring you great nachas!

  3. Add my vote in favor of a frum sleepaway camp to supplement your home life in this situation.

    Camp Sternberg used to take in girls who are attending public school. One such young ladyo is a very close friend of my daughter’s. After spending summers at Sternberg together, they were reunited in seminary.

    There are also programs through Oorah and JEP (Camp Nageela), but the latter is more geared to kids who aren’t frum, which would deem it basically a wrong fit for your daughter.


  4. I agree wholeheartedly with tdr that “camp is an excellent way to provide a positive and fun Jewish experience that could influence her in the future.” Many kids who went to public school for ten months of the year gained enormously from the experience of two months of intensive Jewish camping. Sleepaway camps usually hold their reunions around Chanukah time, and they give some kind of a bonus or prize to campers who bring new kids along. Talk to other moms from your local synagogue about where their girls are going to camp. There are camp scholarship funds to help pay for the cost. Start now, ask around, because it’s important to sign up early before camp scholarship funds are depleted.

  5. “Children brought up as Orthodox Jews in the former Soviet Union quickly learned the “us versus them” mentality, keeping strong in their Jewish faith even when forced to hide their Jewish observance.”

    Or perhaps because of their need to hide their Jewish observance.

    While the school is certainly a great influence on a child, it is not the *main* influence. There are plenty of FFB yeshiva educated kids that do not turn into frum adults unfortunately.

    Nothing we do as parents guarantees any outcome in our children, but there are two thing that I suggest you focus on rather than worrying about the things you can’t control right now (like boy-girl interaction).

    1) Close relationship with the parents
    2) Positive Jewish experiences (even not frum ones like a Purim carnival at the local temple)

    I echo the recommendation for Dr. Neufeld’s book (and videos and audio tapes).

    Additionally, I would emphasize that the more positive the Jewish experiences your daughter has as a child, even if it’s only on Shabbos and after school and Yom Tov, the more likely she will be to seek them out as an adult. Camp is an excellent way to provide a positive and fun Jewish experience that could influence her in the future.

    Hatzlacha rabba!

  6. The issue of sending children to public school rather than to day school arises ironically in communities with many choices, when the parents simply do not have money for tuition. The main thing is keeping a strong bond of love and trust between child / parent, so the child understands the parent is 100 percent on his/her side no matter what.

    Children brought up as Orthodox Jews in the former Soviet Union quickly learned the “us versus them” mentality, keeping strong in their Jewish faith even when forced to hide their Jewish observance. In the U.S. and Canada, the child in public school must choose on her own to hold fast to the “home team” mentality and be strong enough to stand up to taunting and peer pressure. You, the parent, must be the shining example of strength and love and goodness that your child cannot bear to disappoint.

    In practical matters, your at home Jewish observances such as lighting Shabbos candles together should be accompanied by hugs and warm good feelings for mutual chizuk. Don’t let the inevitable mother-daughter disagreements break apart the team feeling, or take you down from the pedestal of role model and inspiration your daughter has placed you on.

  7. We have a frum daughter in Day School but in one more year she will be out of grade 8 and going into high school. My daughter has indicated that she wants to attend a regular high school as opposed to going to Israel for her first year. Some of her friends who are not so frum will be attending secular high school as well. There is a dilemma here sent there is not frum high school except in Toronto. Any they are way too expensive. Devora, I would say do what you need to do for the time being. Make your values known to the school.

    In Canada, we are more PC and accepting than in the US. So people will understand and try and accomodate. Take a stand for the Yom Tovim and poeple will respect you. We are to be a light unto the nations so it may be a good thing that the other students see your daughter as different and steadfast in her beliefs. The world is looking for hope and guidance. Students and teachers will notice and ask questions this will be an opportunity to point them to Hashem. I do it at work and people respect me, try and watch their language around me etc. I sit and eat around them keeping kosher. Is this not the way of a Jew? To be in a ‘cocoon’ around only the frum world is not the greatest thing either.

  8. A few things to add, as most of my thoughts are here already: as far as both the reading list AND the post-yom tov homework, enlist the teacher’s help:

    if you can (while meeting with the teacher about everything else) explain that yom tov is NOT cutting school, but attending religious services as well as with various prohibitions including no TV, writing, etc. you may be able to come to an agreement about catchup work so your daughter isn’t behind without the need for her to do every single worksheet she missed during class PLUS two days of homework.

    With the reading list, maybe you can offer additional choices (or ask the teacher to) that are age/grade/reading level appropriate without inappropriate content.

    I remember getting much better responses from teachers when they understood I wasn’t sitting home, watching TV , talking on the phone, etc. those yom tov days I was out. And while I had convictions, I did not have my parents so thoroughly on my side.

    Good luck.

  9. Shades of Gray (#12/23) Your original point is now better understood.

    Now that I know that we were making different points, I still think that a girl has more fashion leeway than a boy in a yarmulke. A boy is more likely to be singled out for wearing a yarmulke than a girl would be for wearing a skirt.

    Could the boy wear some other type of headgear? When I was a kid in public school, the policy was hats off when we walked in the door, but perhaps that has changed.

  10. Firstly, on a personal level I want to tell you that though we are a frum family who sent their kids to Yeshiva I know that many fine frum people for various reasons graduate from public school because my son recently got engaged to a girl who went to public school because there was no appropriate Yeshiva where she lived. In fact I “bonded” with my future daughter in law talking about some similar experiences, though of course mine are 30 years ago.

    The advice you were given about not worrying about mixed gym and such things is correct. You may want to get advice from more modern Orthodox parents and Modern Orthodox Rabbis- their schools often often allow mixed events and have mixed classes and such. Even if you and or your child ultimately decide to go the charedi route and want to not have those type of activities later on there is no reason to do this now.

    Your childs teachers may be more comfortable with explanations dealing with your religiously required lifestyle choice, though in my experience if you give enough explanation as to why your child can’t do something, they will accomodate as best they can, whatever their personal feelings about your choice.

    Good luck.

  11. “I’ll respectfully disagree with Shades of Grey (#12) about modest female attire standing out more than yarmulkas…”

    That wasn’t my point at all. I was suggesting that a girl can be approached and bothered by a boy, and that such is different than the sitaution that the frum boys I heard of in public school had to face; on the other hand, boys have problems as well from the coed angle, so maybe the sitaution with a girl is no more difficult as that facing a boy.

    As I suggested, parents who have been in such a situation can be the most valuable in terms of advice and chizuk; one commenter above(comment # 7) mentioned that he knows such people as well. I would contact them, if it was me in that situation.

  12. I would hesitate to tell Devora that she “must” pull her child out of school and do X or Y without knowing the child and the family personally, which I assume no one else here does. I say this because I could certainly imagine circumstances where such an approach could make a bad situation worse if the student came to resent this “Judaism thing” of her mother that has deprived her of the only social world she’s ever known.

  13. Public schools today have so much negative influence on even the strongest of kids. I certainly would not want to have my child “tested” by all the “at risk” behaviors even non religious parents want to avoid. Don’t put your daughter in a situation where she might, G-d forbid, succumb to peer pressure, or, even if she is strong enough to survive, to be assaulted by other children’s and worse, a teacher’s insensitive comments. The school is unlikely to support your wishes to avoid certain topics and activities..Take a chance and enjoy the bracha of home schooling, even as a temporary solution to helping your daughter prepare for the time when she can attend a day school. May Hashem, bless you with siyata d’shamaya, and guide you to a healthy place for your child.

  14. Devora,

    I wish you success in your tasks as a BT and as a parent.

    None of us among the Baal/at Teshuvah population made/will make a complete transtion all at once (mine is still in progress!); you and your daughter may have to become more observant in stages together.

    You mentioned the reading list, and as Miriam (#15) mentioned, looking over the list may allay some of your fears. You could also contact various day schools and ask them for copies of their reading lists. You will surely find some of the books on your school’s lists are on the day schools’ lists. Alternatively, if you see a book on your daughter’s school’s list about (for example) a young female war hero who is not Jewish, you could ask the teacher if it would be permissible to substitute the story of Hannah Szenesh. (I am not saying that non-Jewish war heroes don’t deserve our respect, but a substitution such as this would help your daughter to meet the homework requirements AND to increase her Jewish awareness).

    I’ll respectfully disagree with Shades of Grey (#12) about modest female attire standing out more than yarmulkas; there are many ways for a girl to be fashionable in a skirt below the knees and sleeves below the elbows.

    I have two recommendations regarding absences on Yom Tov:

    1. I attended a conservative synagogue and religous school in a community with a large Jewish population in public school, and many of us took off on Sukkot and Shavuot (public schools were closed on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Pesach). I don’t know if it was a legal requirement or an agreement between the religious and public officials, but tests were not given on those days and new work was not given either.

    You could contact a conservative or reform synagogue in a nearby city, and ask them if they have made any such arrangements with their public schools; you could use such an agreement as a guide in dealing with your school authorities. (This may also present a kiruv opportunity if you so desire — you could offer to host children from those schools who are interested in a full Shabbat experience).

    2. Contact Agudath Israel and ask them for information on obtaining reasonable religious accomodation for your daughter, as required by law, in the public school setting.

  15. On the other hand, Muslims are known to express themselves rather strongly as a group, so the administrators etc. might be reacting to their demands out of fear. Also, the Muslims in such districts may be more numerous than Jews are in the situation we’ve been discussing. Also, effort by frum Jews to get special treatment in these matters are often opposed or sabotaged by non-frum Jews on staff.

  16. Devora,

    My children attended public school, so I know the anguish that it causes a Frum/BT parent. I pray that Hashem will guide you to the correct solution, whether through any of the options mentioned on this board, or through a change in mazal that will enable you to enroll your daughter in a Jewish school. You may want to contact Oorah (, a kiruv organization that specializes in arranging yeshiva education for public school children. Perhaps they can suggest an approach for your situation.

    Ironically, one of the factors that may improve matters somewhat for Jewish children in public schools is the changing American demographic, specifically the influx of Muslim students. As Bob Miller pointed out, the attitude in public schools is overwhelmingly liberal/PC, and teachers and staff bend over backwards to accommodate Muslim students despite the laws of religion-state separation. It is common in many parts of the country to see Muslim children going to public school dressed in their version of tzniut, and for Muslim parents to pull their students out of classes such as mixed physical education or sex education for reasons of religious belief. Some schools go so far as to install foot baths and allow prayer on school property outside of classroom hours. I don’t know whether these conditions characterize the area where you live, but I see them in my community, and I have heard about them in others. The only reason that I mention Muslim students on a Jewish blog is in the hope that their growing presence may influence the liberal/PC/diversity school faculty (many of whom are Jewish anyway) to play fairly to allow similar accommodations to any Frum children who, for whatever reason, attend public school.

    Hatzlach chinuch yeladeinu.

  17. Devora,
    Firstly, my heart and tefillos go out to you and your daughter. You should know that everything that you and your daughter are going through will only strengthen your connection to Hashem.
    I totally agree with Moshe (comment #11) that NCSY is a great option. If a chapter isn’t close by then perhaps your daughter might be able to attend an NCSY Shabbaton in a city that is close to you.
    You can easily get in touch with people via the web. I would also suggest that you stay in close contact with a Rabbi you are close with. Hang in there and remember that the end result of your path of a Baalat Teshuva and the goal of raising a Bat Torah is that you should enjoy a Torah lifestyle. If the school/teachers see that you are attempting to consistantly lead a positive lifestyle things will go well.

  18. I am not sure how old your daughter is. As a teenager its all about fitting in. If the situation allows, could your daughter have some friends over to your home? On the home-court advantage scenario, she can maintain connections with the kids, yet not be isolated from them. At school, there would be a more inclusive feeling too, carrying over from get togethers at home or other kosher environments.
    My kids have been brought up FFB, though my husband and I are BTs, which we took on as teenagers. My children have been in atmospheres where they were the odd men out. I suppose your daughter just has to feel confident in who she is, and when inappropriate situations come up, she will know how to handle it, and be proud of her decisions.
    Best of luck with it. It isnt easy.

  19. Hello Devora,
    As long as you are in that circumstance, you should look at as the best possible situation for you right now. If it was not, you wouldn’t be in it! If you play the situation right, your daughter will look back some day and thank the Ribbono Shel Olam that her background was somewhat unusual. There are many great people that went to public school in this country even though they were shomer shabbos. Yes, the world has changed since that was common, but you can still gain strength from them. See the book All for the Boss, for example.

    You should be bentched with much hatzlacah!

  20. Ouch, Devora, that’s hard! I’m sorry the comments have not been very useful to you. I think most of us have thankfully not been in your exact situation. I, for example, was BT before I was married, and my husband grew up frum, and we have moved at least once because of needing a good Day school for our kids. However, if you say that this is not an option for you, then obviously it is not.

    1. I was also teased in school (mainly HS) for wearing long skirts, and I also wore jeans — I just liked long skirts. Children will tease. As long as she knows why and can explain it to others, she shouldn’t bother. They don’t want an explanation, they just are looking for something that is “different” to tease her about. They’ll get over it if she doesn’t respond.

    2. Read the books from the list yourself, and only let your daughter read the ones you find appropriate. Even in Day School, my 7th grader is reading H.G.Wells for a book report — secular books aren’t all treif. Of send me the list and I’ll read them, if you don’t have time. I read that you’d rather have the time for her to read Jewish books, but you are sending her to Public school, so she may as well get a well-rounded secular education out of it. Is the teacher on your side at all, or does s/he just think you’re crazy? You are well within your rights to specify which sorts of celebrations your child is allowed to participate in. Outings over parties, for example.

    3. Even the Day School my children attend now has a policy where parents must pre-approve all movies, and if a given child can’t watch something, they make other arrangements. I agree that random movies are a potential problem — everything from fairy tales where a girl’s purpose in life is to be kissed by someone to whom she is not married (Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty…) to random slang thrown in because “all the kids know the words anyway.” You’ll need to discuss this with the teacher, and obtain her cooperation.

    4. Emphasize that she is required to keep herself on a different level from her classmates because Hashem has a different job for her in life and she needs to be worthy of it. (Sorry, the best I can do. It’s hard!)

    5. Dodge ball isn’t so interactive. My kids’ school (out-of-town community, small population) has mixed gym through 3rd grade, separate after that. In the public school I went to, it was mixed through 6th grade, but separate for junior high and high school. I wouldn’t worry about playing gym together at this age unless it’s touch football or something like that. And at least when I was a kid, girls tended to work with girls and boys with boys unless the teacher insisted otherwise. And you certainly didn’t admit to “liking” someone by agreeing to work with them! But I haven’t been in elementary school in something like 25 years. So see #4. Having a blanket statement to answer people with, “Sorry, my mother won’t let me date until I’m 18” (Yes, she actually said that!!) helped me. took the pressure off of me for deciding whether I wanted to date anyone, because I so wasn’t ready for that anyway! Explain that frum Jews use dating as a means to find out if you want to marry someone. Your daughter should know that she is far too young to get married, so dating will lose some importance. Help her see that it’s just a big (dangerous) game to her classmates, and not one she really wants to play.

    6. BTDT. So it’s extra work, but YomTov is more important. treat that fact as just that — fact.

    7. and 8. A lot of this will depend on the teacher and any preconceived notions about “religious people.” Be very matter of fact, explain that you have certain restrictions, but try to imply that you and the teacher are on the same side and want the same thing — a good year for your daughter emotionally and academically while maintaining and refusing to compromise on your high moral values.

    Hatzlacha, Devora! I hope this was helpful!

  21. Your daughter will feel different in public school, there’s no getting around that. The question is, how will she feel about being different and how can you help her feel strong in her differentness?

    I did go to day school for elementary school, but I went to public school for grades 7-12. In some ways (the ways that didn’t seem to me to contradict my family’s values) I wanted to be all-American. Things like Tzniut and boy-girl interactions were not such an issue for me. OTOH, things like Shabbat and Kashrut were clear ways that I was different from my friends and that was just fine with me. (I’m not sure if my siblings felt the same way or not — I suspect that personality plays a role here too). I knew I was different. They knew I was different. That was just the way it was. Interestingly, many of my friends were Catholic girls — I think they had an easier time grasping the concept of religion being something you *do*, not just something you *believe*.

    When I was about 5, my parents explained to us that trick or treating was part of the non-Jewish holiday of Halloween and so we wouldn’t be doing it any more. I accepted that without question. When I was about 8, my parents explained that giving Chanukah presents was based on the Christian custom of giving Christmas presents and so we wouldn’t be doing that any more. I accepted that without question too. It was so clear to us that we were observant Jews and that certain activities of the surrounding culture were just not appropriate for us. (My parents also made up fun activities for each night of Chanukah, but I don’t think that was the main reason we didn’t protest the switch).

    I had a bunch of experiences all through my public school years with teachers, administrators, and students who challenged me for sticking to my family’s values. The most painful experience was with a Jewish student who tried to embarrass me in front of the whole class by accusing me of being racist because I refused to participate in a particular activity (for reasons having absolutely nothing to do with race, of course). I was ordinarily quite shy, so I think the other students were shocked to hear me fight back just as loudly. Knowing who I was and what I believed in gave me that fortitude to stick up for it. That’s the kind of fortitude you want to aim for (and in your daughter’s case, she’ll likely need even more).

    I think that having a strong relationship with my parents helped. We didn’t always get along (I was a teen after all), but they were very strong and supportive role models. Check out the book Hold on to Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld. It is very interesting and may be helpful to you.

    Dr. Avraham Twerski talks about his experience in public school and being very different, at least in his book Positive Parenting. That might be a resource for you.

    When talking with teachers, it is important to decide in advance what is most important to you and what you could compromise on. If something cannot be compromised on, state clearly that your daughter can or cannot do certain things or will or will not participate. But where possible, invite the teacher to help you find solutions. It is crucial to listen to the teacher and reflect back what she has to say. Convey great respect for the teacher and even for her goals. Then she will be more open to helping you and accommodating your needs. Don’t hesitate to tell the teacher that you want to think more about whatever she proposes or says and get back to her.

    Make being Jewish and observant appealing. And keep in mind that what’s appealing to adults and to kids may be different.

    I do suspect that public school today presents greater challenges than it did when I went to school 25-30 years ago. B’hatzlacha doing the best you can with a difficult situation!

  22. I really feel for you but one thing I can say is that if your daughter survives this she’ll be better than good because she’ll have the courage of her convictions which is what a Jew really needs to get through life. If she’d gone through day school, it is unlikely that she’d develop those same character muscles but its a risk. It sounds like you are stuck there so daven a lot. When we bring a child into this world Hashem is our partner. Don’t forget that. Hashem is on your side. Turn to Him. Best. .

  23. I heard of a community outside New York that has had a handful of frum boys go to public high school becuase they were not able to attend local Yeshivos, for whatever reason. Some of these boys were very frum, and wore Yarmulkas in the classroom. The situation might be more difficult for a frum girl in public school.

    (I don’t have much contact information, but I can pass on to you through the Administrators what I know, and you may be able to get in touch with some of these parents, if you are interested )

  24. NCSY

    That would seem to me to be something that could help you here. Is there a Chapter somewhere near by?

  25. Dear BT readers,

    After reading the initial responses to my article about sending my daughter to public school, I realized that it would be helpful to clarify so perhaps we could get some suggestions to our public school problems.

    When I wrote that I was not able to put my daughter in a day school at this time, I was expressing the reality of the situation. Unfortunately, there are no orthodox shuls or day schools where we live. Then why don’t we move? That has to do with some very personal legal matters, which are not really relevant to this discussion, but this is where it stands. We are here. We are not able to move. My daughter has to go to a public school.

    If anyone else has ever become BT only to find that the public schools are not appropriate, or more truthfully- a disaster, but had to send their kids to public school anyway, please know anything that you did that made a bad situation better. I’m open to any suggestions.

    All the best, Devora.

  26. Devora,

    First of all, Yasher Koach on becoming a Baalat Teshuva! You also seem to be very much in tune with the problems that the public school brings.

    We live in a small community which, at this time, has no real frum high school alternative for us (we still have a few years before this becomes a problem for us personally and we are very happy with the day school.) When we do come to this crossroads will we most probably move, even though we really like it here (and it is fairly inexpensive to live here) If, in all likelyhood we move to a big frum community my wife will most likely have to work full time to afford it and we will make other large financial sacrifices but we just don’t see it as being a choice. Public school is just unacceptable for the exact reasons you outline.

    Most importantly, as a new Baalat Teshuva (or for anyone for that matter) you should absolutely consult with your Rav. If you don’t have one, get one you are comfortable with! I always see this as the big # 4 to being frum. 1) Shabbos 2) Kosher 3) Mikvah 4) Rav!

    Good Luck!

  27. I would like to say that I understand your dilemma. I grew up in a city with a tiny frum community (4 families – no Chabad!), and went to public school, as did the other families in my community (except one, who went to a non-Jewish private school). Sometimes, day school is simply not an option.

    The answer depends on your perspective. Some of the things that you mentioned, such as keeping your daughter separate from mixed-gender activities or from activities that you do not feel are appropriate for a frum child (you may need to define that, btw), are simply not possible in public school. It is the goal of public school to make everyone feel involved and to ensure that no one is left out. If you do not want your daughter to be involved in these things, than I would say that home schooling is the way to go.

    On the other hand, it is certainly possible for a frum child to attend public school and remain frum (I did it and know many others who also did it). The key is to make sure that your daughter understands the difference between Jew and non-Jew. I always knew that while my friends ate non-kosher food, I couldn’t because I was different, and that was just the way it was. It will require more effort on your part for limudei kodesh (my parents taught me). Make Shabbos extra-special. Make Jewish topics fun. Basically, make a clear distinction between kodesh and chol, so that she can interact with the chol without being seduced by it. My dad would ‘pay’ me with toys that I wanted for a given number of hours of learning Torah. That is the kind of thing that you need to do for your children to come out of public school successfully.

    Anyway, I hope that helped. Let me know if you want to talk further, as I feel that my experiences are more relevant than most other people.

  28. Please go look at At one point our family considered it seriously. It is free to residents of many states – and it will give your daughter the benefit of a secular education without the influence. If that doesn’t work, your school district may be willing to arrange for your daughter to simply complete the curriculum outside if the school. I believe that’s what some families in Des Moines, IA did when their day school disaffiliated. They also arranged for Skokie Yeshiva to basically do a mail correspondence course for the boys. The shluchim school could also be an option, as stated earlier. ( You said she’s in elementary school? A newly-minted first grader is at a different level and interacts differently than a fifth grader.

  29. Homeschool. You will never be able to resolve these issues with the school.

    Public school works for some families if they are not bothered by the boy-girl interactions, secular movies, books, etc. Since these things are an issue for you, it’s better to just leave the school.

  30. I would strongly suggest that you investigate the possibilities of transferring your child into a day school. The social and educational issues that you are describing become more difficuly with time.

  31. I was a freshman in a progressive surburban public highschool about 10 years ago. My brother just graduated from that highschool in June. I can say with certainty that peer pressure has increased significantly between those years. The pressure to date, drink etc keeps affecting younger and younger kids. Frum schools have these issues as well, but it is more likely your child will find good frum influences in a day school then a public school.

  32. Any Jew forced by circumstances to place children in a public school has to realize the problems involved and needs to plan an exit strategy, even this involves as drastic a step as home schooling or relocation.

    The most basic problem in a typical suburban public school is the pervasive liberal/PC attitude of most staff, administrators, parents, and students toward religion and life in general. They do not hesitate to proselytize for their views and negate Jewish religious views. Also, if Jewish education is relegated to “after hours”, it’s hard to generate real interest in it.

  33. Hi Devora,
    I hate to say this but your situation is quite impossible. It’s hard enough to bring up frum children in a frum school never mind a public one. In your position I would seriously consider homeschooling. Chabad actually has an online school for their shluchim which you too could use.

    We homeschooled one of our children for 5 years for a totally different reason. I work & have a large family so it was a challenge but a pure yiddeshe neshama entrusted to us deserves the right chinuch.

    I know that as a BT if I hear an old pop song in a store I can pick up the tune & lyrics immediately, even though I haven’t heard it for 25 years! I wouldn’t want that for my child & I wouldn’t want my child to become a 2nd generation BT. Do you?

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