17 answers

Public vs Parochial School

My kids are not in school yet, but we are at the point where we are starting to decide where we want to send them once they are school-age. We are in a neighborhood where there is both a public school and parochial Catholic school (where we attend church occasionally). We are having a difficult time deciding where we want to send them. My husband and I both went grew up going to Catholic grade schools, but as adults we really struggle with the Catholic religion since there are many of the church's beliefs that we are strongly against. IN other words, we identify at liberal democrats. I wonder, is there room for liberal Democrats in a Catholic school?? On the other hand, I like the idea of a small closer knit community within the Catholic school, among some other reasons.
I could go on and on about all of my thoughts for both sides, but I am just curious if anyone has been had a similar struggle and what you ultimately decided?? Primarily I'm interested in hearing from those who identify w/ Democratic/Liberal party and also send their kids to Catholic school.

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I live in Madison as well and love the Catholic school my kids go to. We are Catholic, but not overly religious. I like the values they instill at school. The close knit school community is great. It is a very warm and friendly environment.

I tend to be more liberal. I don't think personal politics come into play at school a whole lot. There are families of different religions and backgrounds attending. Some more liberal and some more conservative. Maybe you could talk to other families who have kids attending the schools you are interested in to get a feel for the schools.

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I don't know where in Madison you are but it looks like you have some other options that may fit better - you have a Waldorf school, you also have a number of Montessori schools. I personally identify as a secular humanist (and liberal democrat) and would never consider sending my son to a school where the teachers viewed some children as 'bad' and some lifestyles as wrong (we have many friends and relatives who are gay, single single and raising children or in religiously mixed marriages). It would not matter to me that my child might learn his alphabet faster there.

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I consider myself a liberal person & I usually vote Democrat, though I'm officially independent or "unenrolled." My youngest two attended an extremely conservative Catholic school (small, all girls, grades 6 - 12), with the youngest about to grauate this spring. They both atended our local public school K - 5. Like you, I find the small, close-knit community a big part of why we chose to send our girls. The academics are very strong here, as well.

Now, my kids weren't little ones just starting out when we sent them to Catholic school, so that might be different than your situation. Still, I've always told my kids that they will hear one viewpoint at home and another at school -- and that's fine with me and their dad. What I want for them is to to hear all different sides of issues and then to decide for themselves what they think and how they want to live. I'm willing to discuss what I feel, what I think and why. I don't want them to grow up thinking the way I do only because that's all they know. I want them able to think for themselves and decide their own position. I hope encouraging them to analyze & think for themselves will help with peer situations as well.

Our reasons for choosing the school we did were:
- better academics
- smaller environment with well qualified, caring instructors
- because of the small size, our girls wouldn't get lost in the crowd
- an emphasis on character development
- a better environment for developing self-confidence
- although we differ politically from many other parents at school, we share a desire for our children to grow up to be well-educated, responsible young women who think for themselves, respect others and feel obligated to act as part of a community.

Take a look at what's important to you and where your children will be best served. Good luck deciding what will owrk best for your family.

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Is it a good public school? Is the area where you live relatively liberal? If we remain where we are currently, there is a good chance our children will go to Catholic school because the public schools are so terrible. I am Catholic, but I am not pleased by this because our area is extremely conservative and I feel that my children's liberal upbringing would definitely be in the minority in a Catholic school. On the other hand, they will most likely be in the minority in a public school, too.

I would attend the church associated with the school more frequently, to get a feel for what the priorities are. Some churches are very active with social justice, others are only concerned about abortion, etc. I think listening to the priest repeatedly as well as reading the announcements and seeing what activities come up frequently will tell you a bit about the priorities of the school. Good luck.

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You sound a lot like me. My husband and I teach at the community college. We live in a neighborhood that has a huge gang problem that is pretty much destroying the public schools. We could transfer out of district, but those schools are not that great either and then our kids would be the "poor kids" from the bad part of town, if that makes sense. Hard to make friends that way.

We are a Catholic family and are also liberal Catholics. We a very much committed to social justice (which is why we both left jobs at an elite Ivy League university to teach at a community college). I disagree with the church on women priests, married priest, homosexuality and birth control. I personally am against abortion, but I am pro-choice, if that makes sense. The school our kids attend is a small k-8 that is run by Salesian sisters. It is actually a convent. We can afford this school because it is Catholic and because some of the teachers are nuns. Some families are very wealthy, some are like us. There are a lot of teachers, fire fighters and police that send their kids to our school (Democrat, Irish/Italian Catholics). I have encountered a few very conservative parents, but I respect their views as long as they respect mine. (Sometimes we can even joke about it.) I often wonder about the sister's political views. Clearly they are anti-abortion, for example, but we live in an area with a large immigrant population and with many, many poor people and so I would find it difficult to believe they would vote for an anti-abortion candidate who is also all for deporting non-documented immigrants. I know some of the nuns believe that women should be able to be priests.

Academically the school is strong, although my eldest is needing more. (He is really intellectually-oriented and I struggle to figure out if this is the best place for him). Still, he has had wonderful experiences in student council and did go to the state-level science fair last year. The school is also involved in community service projects, like feeding the homeless, doing beach clean-ups and the like. The students recently did fundraising (can recycling and hot chocolate sales) and raised $1500 that will be used to purchase farm animals for families in Africa....that is amazing to me and they are learning so much, not the least of which is that they have a responsibility to do good in the world and that by working together they can actually achieve those goals....This is probably the main reason I love the school.

We have to carpool, so we have gotten to know a lot of the families well. The school hosts many family gatherings that are a lot of fun and that really work to build community. The school itself is calm, peaceful and very beautiful. The sister have four dogs that roam the campus and those dogs are so very good for the kids to have around. There is a required parent volunteer contribution and most families go over the requirement because we really love the school and work hard to make it better.

I have to say that we are very grateful for our school. I do think the investment is worth it and I say that as a parent and as someone who has taught college for almost 20 years.

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I would visit both schools to see what the classroom environment is like. Also, ask moms in your neighborhood. Some public schools have classes so large that there is more discipline going on than teaching or some kids are not engaged and could slip through the cracks. Some Catholic schools are so rigid that there is not room for different learning styles - all desks in rows, facing forward and no deviation from lecture teaching. Are there aides in the classroom the entire day? The smaller student-to-adult ratio is conducive to more interaction with all the students.

Ask questions about how they handle bullying, theft among classmates' school supplies, fighting, inappropriate language, etc. You will get a really good idea if it goes on much and how it is handled. One junior high principal was so excited to tell me how they handled all the fighting which told me it was excessive. I didn't have a problem with how they handled it, but that it was a major concern. You will see if they encourage moral behavior or if it is not politically correct to talk about stealing being bad (as in the case of a friend's daughter's school).

I really doubt political views would be discussed in the lower grades. Instead, you will want to find which school endorses your beliefs about daily behavior among children. Are bullies allowed to rule? Does the administration dismiss behavior as "kids acting like kids" or is bad behavior given consequences like you give at home?

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I think it's more about the academic education than the politics. We're not Catholic at all (and, trust me, there are MANY Catholic beliefs I'm S.T.R.O.N.G.L.Y against), but I sent one of my daughters to a parochial school for K and 1st. At the time, it was the best place for her because of what they offered in terms of academics AND socialization. But she'd just come out of a Jewish pre-school (no, we're not Jewish, either), so obviously, the religious aspect didn't bother us one way or the other. And at the parochial school, I can't say I remember our political views EVER being an issue or even coming up at all. What we did get out of it was a great academic education for our daughter

We've since moved across the country. Now all my kids are in public school. That's because our school district is routinely ranked as one of the best in the state. Our local high school was ranked #1 in PA last year in some magazine (don't remember which one, but it was a pretty major magazine, TIME or something like that). So right now, it's a no brainer - they go to the awesome public school we have right in our neighborhood.

I think, when the time comes, visit both types of schools. See where you're comfortable. Speak with some of the parents and teachers at both places. Then decide what's best for your children and their education without worrying too much about your political views. You'll meet people of ALL different backgrounds and views in the years ahead, and hopefully, so will your kids - it's the best way to teach them tolerance that being different from yourself is ok.

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I would tour both. My husband and I both went to Catholic schools for 12 years, but after we did both tours, we went with public school. There were more features for handling kids that were below or above average, more aides, more programs. When we went to the Catholic school tour, all they talked about was tuition and the uniform. I'm sure every school is different though. The only thing is that public schools are really losing state money so it looks like programs are going to start getting cut, so that is something to also consider. Good luck. Remember, you can start at one school and move if you need to...

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Just about every Catholic I know (and there are lots...I grew up in a huge Irish, Catholic family and went to Catholic school for 12 years) is a Democrat. That might be because of where I live though, where there is a long, rich history of political leaders who are both Catholic and Democrats. The Catholic church is very liberal when it comes to stewardship, being your brother's keeper, living a life of service to others, sharing what you have, taking care of the environment, etc. Other than abortion and gay rights, there is a lot of overlap between the two groups. No doubt those are huge areas, but I find that most Catholics I know are in favor of equal rights for gay people, including marriage and parenting, and ignore the Church's teachings on this. Abortion is definitely more of a 50/50 split.

Anyway...when I was in parochial school through 8th grade, we never talked about controversial issues like abortion, euthanasia, gay rights or anything like that. In high school, there was a lot of open dialogue around controversial subjects and the teachers let us debate as long as we were respectful towards each other.

So...my experience growing up was that I was and am surrounded by liberals who are also Catholic. I chose to not send my kids to parochial school mostly out of the expense. However, I was not impressed with the quality of my education through 8th grade and found that the few parochial schools in my area lack academic rigor and have no special services or things like science labs, foreign language, etc. so the public schools in my town are better quality. That said, I do wish that we could afford Catholic high school because the quality of my HS education was top notch. Good luck with your decision!

1 mom found this helpful

I live in Madison as well and love the Catholic school my kids go to. We are Catholic, but not overly religious. I like the values they instill at school. The close knit school community is great. It is a very warm and friendly environment.

I tend to be more liberal. I don't think personal politics come into play at school a whole lot. There are families of different religions and backgrounds attending. Some more liberal and some more conservative. Maybe you could talk to other families who have kids attending the schools you are interested in to get a feel for the schools.

1 mom found this helpful

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