Alternative to Public Schools for Non-religious

Updated on May 11, 2012
J.W. asks from Aurora, IL
10 answers

We've had our house on the market for quite some time, and I'm beginning to believe we won't sell it before our oldest starts kindergarten in the fall.

We want to move because of the schools -- we're in a district with high ESL, high poverty rate, and low property tax base. Schools are all "failing" (NCLB -- not an accurate measure of school quality, I know), graduation rates are low, teen pregnancy rates high, gang activity starts in 4th-5th grade.

Anyway, our 4 choices here are: Catholic or Lutheran school (we're not religious in any way; our kids aren't baptized, etc.); Montessori schools (can't afford the tuition); homeschooling (very difficult bc I need to take care of our two younger kids, too, and our oldest has a very social personality); or public school.

Neighboring districts do not accept out of district tuition paying students. I've already asked.

So I'm going back and forth between sending her to the public school -- it's just elementary school, how bad could it be?, Lutheran school, or Catholic school. I just can't decide.

So I'm looking for your thoughts about non-religious kids in parochial schools. Or, anyone have any ideas for schooling I haven't thought of before? Thanks!

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

More Answers



answers from Washington DC on

For the two religious schools: I would talk with the administrator at each who handles inquiries from potential students' families. You don't have to say as soon as you walk in the door, "We're not religious"; just be neutral, get all their brocures and paperwork, ask for a copy of the curricula for grades K-3 or so, and listen to the pitch. Do ask "Do you accept children who are not Catholic?" and "Do you accept children who are not Lutheran?" The answer VERY likely is yes; most religious schools (around here at least) have plenty of students who are not of that specific faith. Then ask for a way to contact some parents of current students there or ask if there is any kind of parent advisory committee you can contact. Although those parents will of course be ones who will give "good reviews," you can at least ask them "What if a child's family is simply not religious, as opposed to, say, Christian but not Lutheran?" See how they react.

Be aware that most religious schools will have, as part of the curriculum, some form of a religious education class at some point, if not every year, and some will require all students to attend chapel services weekly (or more or less often). See if students can opt out of any of those things. But these are after all religiously based schools so recognition of the religion is to be expected. So a lot depends on whether you would be OK with your child going to a religious school for the education and also having to attend chapel etc. as part of the deal.

Just a note on that: In Britain, which is a highly secular society where very, very few people attend any form of worship services or identify themselves as religious, the state-run (public) schools do still require "RE" or religious education as part of the public school curriculum. The idea is that one should study religions -- all of them, not just Christianity -- as part of the history and culture of the world. It's not intended to proselytize to kids and convert them (though once that was indeed the case, long ago). If that idea is OK by you, then maybe you would do OK with having your kids at a religiously based school. All depends on what you feel about it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

in Aurora I would send her to the public school this year, it won't be horrendous in kindergarten. Hopefully your house will sell by the time she is in 2nd grade which is where it really starts mattering what SCHOOL is like (as opposed to what goes on at home mattering more). Another option is daycare centers offer kindergarten but make sure they are accredited or it means nothing. I know Chesterbrook is one such daycare.

We moved out of that school district for the same reasons, luckily it was in 2002 when the market was good.



answers from Chicago on

You would be surprised how bad elementary school can be. After 2nd grade when my daughter was told by 2 boys they were going to hold her down and have sex with her, we put her in a private Christian school. We do go to church and have faith, but there are many there who send their children there for the education. Until you can get into a good district I would say put your child in private.



answers from Chicago on

If you are not opposed to Christian religion then I would suggest the Lutheran school if you feel they have strong academics. It would probably be a better more relaxed religious approach than a Catholic school (probably, not definitely).



answers from Chicago on

I would visit the schools your considering. It is absolutely possible and done all the time...sending kids to religious schools when it is not practiced in the home. My best friends Bruce and nephew attended Catholic school for years and both of their parents do not practice any form of religion. This education was superior and they were miles ahead of others their age. The did have to attend chapel and the parents were required to do a certain amount of volunteer hours in some form or another a the school per school year. They were not pushed to do religious activities outside of school hours...and this was in Texas in the Bible belt.

Ultimately it will be what you feel comfortable with an can afford. I personally am a Christian and would love to be able to send my kids to a Christian school, but tuition is beyond our reach right now. You and your husband need to be in complete agreement and be prepared to possibly answer "religion" type questions from your kids...especially in the beginning. I would also suggest you and your husband having a plan to address any religion type activities (ex prayer before meals or bed) that your children may pick up from school and try and do at home...especially if it is something you do NOT want done in your home. I say this because I go to church with my husband; however is not a believer. As a result, many things such as praying before meals is not done regularly inmy home. The only time it is done is if my kids ask to. My husband is tolerant if it is from my kids and will allow it and will even participate.

By being exposed to the religion...your kids may get to a point that they will make a personal decision to have a relationship with God...even if you don't encourage it. If these are things that you and your husband do not want to possible happen...then I would not consider a faith based school and option.



answers from Decatur on

My VOTE is the Lutheran! The priority is setting a good study habit/schedule, so the child is confident in ability to study the material, not overwhelmed? My niece went to private school, after two weeks in public, she came home with some unsavory "new vocabulary"! Unacceptable, to my BIL, so she is also a "social butterfly", she has excelled at the private school! With No more "new vocabulary" That age is just so impressionable by peers?? So, I vote to surround your baby with peers that will encourage positive behaviors for future academic success. My son, is in public school for Kindergarten, and it is well, "ok". As parents we are molding our children's "childhood" so I strive to make that experience positive and worth remembering! Good luck with your decision! It is a difficult one!



answers from Seattle on

Sending non-religious students to a parochial school should be just fine. It's kind of like teaching them about another culture. Although we may not choose to adopt the teachings/rituals of another culture, it's pretty cool to learn/know about them, right?



answers from Seattle on

Have you tried looking into online schooling? I realize usually it's attached to the public school curriculum however you can always add on to said curriculum at home. I would not send my children to a religious school but at the same I would do whatever it is I had to in order to provide my children with the best education possible. I believe that while kindergarten is a starting point it sets the tone for learning and is important.


answers from Chicago on

Lots of good advice. Just to throw in my own experience, my daughter left our local public school before entering 6th grade, not because she wasn't doing well, but because she was having some social issues/bullying that we felt weren't being addressed by the administration. She actually asked to be moved to another school, and as one wise friend put it, "Some adults don't know when it's time to go. She knows she needs a change--respect that." We put her in Catholic school--neither her father nor myself follow any religion. This school came recommended and it felt open in it's acceptance of all sorts of students, regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof. It was the best thing we could have done. She got an amazing education, learned something about Christianity and Catholicism (which she takes with a grain of salt, for the most part), and made some fabulous friends with whom I think she will remain connected. Now entering high school this fall, we are putting her back in the public school system, but I feel that she is very well prepared. She was accepted into a magnet program near where we live so we are very excited that she will be able to walk to school. You of course have to do what's right for your child. My younger one never left the public system--it wasn't what she needed. Everyone is different. Best of luck to you!



answers from Chicago on

Ran into the same problem last year. My son is quiet and not the type to say he's not getting something so I was afraid he would be lost in the ESL shuffle. I don't know if there are any non-denominational schools around you or as Nora P. suggested a pre-school or day care that has kindergarten. We did end up at a Catholic school. I visited several schools and talked to a lot of people in our area. I wasn't even considering Catholic but one of the other mom's from our preschool really liked this school. We ended up deciding between this school and a Lutheran school. We went to each of their church services and they were so much more friendly at the Catholic church. We got to talk to other families, kids too, who went to school there. At the Lutheran Church nobody, but the greeter even acknowledged us. There are several children who are not "religious" and while religion is taught it does not seem to be an issue for them. So far in kindergarten they teach about how God loves you. Good luck.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions