Do I Have To Start Going To Church To Send My Kid To Pre-School?

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imageBack to school time is upon us. Anytime after the 4th of July, people start thinking about notebooks and Lisa Frank folders. I’m really hoping Lisa Frank is still around, by the way, but I haven’t checked in a while. This is the first time in almost a decade that I’ve had to worry about back to school at all. Because this is the first year that my daughter will attend some type of formal education. True, she’s only three. And she’ll only go two mornings a week. But it’s still school.

My daughter’s been going to daycare since she was three weeks old. She doesn’t need help socializing with other children. She knows what its like to spend time away from her parents. I still want to orient her to the classroom setting. I want her see what its like to have a teacher, as opposed to daycare, where its more like a second mother. It’s like dipping your toe into the pool of learning. I can’t wait til she learns about analogies.

I realize that early childhood education can vary greatly depending on the town or city you live in. Bigger cities obviously have more options for pre-school, along with more competition to get into the best ones. Smaller towns  might not have any options at all. My mid-size city has a couple different selections for pre-school, almost all of which are run by churches. Literally, every decent-sized church I pass on the street has a banner out that they’re now enrolling for pre-school. When I contacted my town’s Early Childhood Development Alliance (lots of cities have similar groups to help parents find accredited daycares and pre-schools), they gave me a very long list our county’s pre-schools. I would say about 95% of them are affiliated with a church.

My husband and my religious views are a different subject for a different (never-written) post. He was raised Catholic. I was raised Brethren. Neither of us are practicing. So we don’t exactly have a church that we belong to, where we could just sign our daughter up for pre-school. I realize that plenty of parents sign their kids up for classes at a church that they do not attend, but it feels odd to make my daughter a member of a community in which I don’t belong. I’m not sure if I want to send her to a pre-school with a religious message that I haven’t heard first-hand. Above all, I want my daughter’s religious education to be an open topic for our entire family to discuss.

Attending religious pre-school brings up an entirely separate topic of conversation that my husband and I weren’t exactly prepared to address. What religion, if any, are we hoping to teach our daughter? Personally, I’ve always felt that there were multiple paths to spirituality and that each person has the right and the need to find one that works for them. Or, they could choose not to have one at all. As she gets older, I hope to talk with my daughter about the different possibilities out there and help her find out what she believes personally. Whether she becomes a Fundamentalist Christian or an Atheist, I’ll still be happy and supportive. A Christian pre-school might have a very different message though. Christianity states that there is only one way to salvation. Of course they would teach that to their youngest pupils. Lots of people who send their children to a religion-sponsored pre-school would expect them to teach that to their children. So, do I need to start attending church and discussing theology with my daughter, simply to enroll her in pre-school?

I hoping to find a program that separates their traditional pre-school from their Bible study. But if I can’t, maybe its not such a bad thing. Even though my daughter is only three, we need to start considering her spiritual education. This may be the impetus for a very necessary, very large family discussion about an important topic. Or maybe I’m over-reacting about two days a week, four hours a day and whatever message comes with it.