One of the changes is that the students are eating lunch in our classroom instead of the cafeteria. This is common in some Montessori schools. Until this year, only the toddler class and a children's house had done this before. The children learn how to set a table and eat together. It definitely creates a different atmosphere as compared to eating in the cafeteria (which is our gymnasium).
One of the interesting things that has happened is that I have seen at least two tables of students praying for the meal. Not just an individual student praying, but the whole table (one was four student, the other was six students). Because I'm dishing out food for students then, I'm not able to stop and listen in on the prayers, but they're still interesting to come across. At least one of the tables held hands together. After one of the tables prayed today I heard several of the students say, "Hooray for God!" (Or something like that.)
I'm fairly certain that not all the students come from Christian backgrounds at those tables. I believe there is at least one or two Jewish students participating, probably a few more students from families with no spiritual tradition. But they all seem to get into giving thanks.
I'll be clear that no one from the school is encouraging or starting the prayers. The students are doing it: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders.
I've heard people complain about how the government has taken prayer out of school, and that it's part of the downfall of our country. I disagree. I believe students' faith will be at its best when it's not given to them, but when they're able to develop it on their own.
Prayer has never been dis-allowed in schools. It's more that we seldom have taught children how to pray on their own. And why are we so concerned about prayer in public? Didn't Jesus laud the kind of praying that is done in private that doesn't get attention from anyone but God?
Now I've been there before. I "saw you at the pole." I even wrote a pretty conservative paper on prayer in school when I was in high school.
But the older I get--the longer I've been a parent--I realize that I don't want that for my kids. It's one thing to be led in prayer and pray together at church. It's another thing for that to happen in non-religious settings. I want my children to have the kind of faith where they feel comfortable praying on their own in different situations outside of meals at home or bedtime routines.
I want my kids to be able to be thankful to God before meals at school if that's the place their heart is at. I want them to take a minute to pray for a friend who's sick or hurting. I want them to be able to pray before a test or after a lesson or while on the playground.
I also want my chlidren to respect the faith and beliefs of others without belittling or making fun of them. I want others to do that for my children as well.
So I support prayer in schools like that.