Classical Education or Catholic School?

Updated on May 11, 2013
M.L. asks from Dulles, VA
15 answers

What are your experiences with Classical Education? We are trying to decide between a classical charter school and a private Catholic school. I'd love to hear your experiences with either. I went to Catholic school so I have more knowledge about that.

Thanks in advance!

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So What Happened?

Just to answer some questions - I am not in the VA area to keep myself anonymous. This will be the first year the charter school is open so there aren't any ratings or other parents to talk to. I have spoken with many parents at the Catholic school and I hear wonderful things. The charter school is free, it's just a chance at a different education. I was hoping to get some feedback on the type of kid who would do well in a classical education situation. I think discipline at both will be pretty ridged, and I'm fine with that.

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answers from Albany on

What's a "classical education"? Like Mozart, Chopin, Beethoven, etc?


I got it!

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answers from Colorado Springs on

Any school is only as good as the people who run it. So you want to check out both schools personally and thoroughly. Other parents' opinions are often worthwhile, but remember that your child will be influenced most by the teachers. Facilities may vary, and curricula all have strengths and weaknesses, but the teaching is the most important thing.

My niece's daughters have attended Catholic schools and received a fine education. The oldest (graduating this month) is a National Merit Scholarship semi-finalist and gets to decide among full-ride scholarships to a number of colleges. (Some problem, huh?)

Where I live, I have many friends who have opted for classical education for their children. They tell me that they like the curriculum and, when the teachers are good, the education of the children is good.

If you want your children to have a strong faith, they don't necessarily have to be in Catholic school, but you and they would benefit from knowing that the school they attend isn't hostile to your religious beliefs.

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answers from Chicago on

Some people swear by classical education. I myself think there is a place for it---when you're a teen or older. Memorization is not education, and most classical approaches are all about memorizing.

What do you want for your kids? Creative, critical thinking? The ability to recite facts or locate countries on a map?

I personally wouldn't send my kids to either because I want to create creative independent thinkers. What your goals are shape the approach you take. It's also important to keep in mind the research that suggests that interest driven approaches are the best.

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answers from Tampa on

I would imagine that a charter school is more innovative and free thinking.

I attended Catholic school from K-12 and did not have a good experience. My Aunt who is in her 60s attended Catholic school and loved it. I guess it depends on the school. I was into art and the Catholic schools seem to be lacking in that area. When I went on to a public college, I was behind academically.

My kids are currently in a public school that has an "A" rating, but my son who used to go there was always behind in his subjects according to his teachers. Same thing is happening with my daughter. My Kindergartener is doing well but sometimes bored.

I am considering putting my younger two in a local charter school that focuses on the arts. It is also an "A" school but supposed to be more hands on learning and I heard its more challenging but in a good way.

Choosing a school is a hard decision, so do your homework.

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answers from St. Louis on

I went public, my ex went Catholic, as old as we are there was no difference.

My older two went Catholic because no matter how much money the public schools have they lack the discipline the Catholic schools have.

My younger two went public because my third has autism spectrum, something the Catholic schools just can't handle. I wish they could because I have never seen so many entitled parents and children in one spot in my life. I have a very hard time keeping my kids grounded to reality.

My youngest is finishing up sixth grade. She will be attending one of our all girl Catholic high schools!! No way I want her anywhere near those kids as a teenager!!
I would not count on any education to teach critical thinking, that would come from parents.

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answers from Columbus on

Well, the catholic high school across the street from my children's elementary school has been on national news lately for firing a beloved teacher of 19 years because her mother's obituary listed her female partner's name. We've had quite a few of the children at the catholic elementary school behind our public elementary school leave and come to our school because the education was not as good or because the school couldn't handle their children's special needs or gifted skills. I find the condescending attitude about public schools to be obnoxious, sad, and unfounded. I could spout off about how awful all catholic schools are based on the two in our neighborhood, but I don't. I find it pretty obnoxious that people spout off about "all public schools" based on the little they know (or assume) about them. My children are reading two grades above grade level (at least) and are getting a great education. My child read Shakespeare and spent a month on dystopian literature in 4th grade and studied 7th grade math this year (in 5th grade). The teachers are supportive and engaged, and no one has been fired for being gay. We have been very happy keeping them in public school - research the school, not the idea of one over the other. There are good public schools and bad ones, and there are good private and charter schools and bad ones. And it's wrong to make assumptions about kids who go to public schools. The kids in our school district are not wealthy by any means -- we are in a low-income area -- and they do not show attitudes of entitlement or being spoiled. Many of them volunteer in local shelters, food banks, and churches, even in the very young grades. The population is diverse, and the school has the resources to meet many more needs than the private schools do. And the discipline in our school is excellent. I wouldn't move to the suburbs or go to a private school for the world.

ETA: Many brand new charter schools have failed mid or end year, leaving kids high and dry. I would not go to an untested, brand new one. There is one here that was established 27 years ago and has a great reputation - I would consider it only because they are an alternative education and do internships in the community two full days a week. But our school district is enormous and has high schools that do internships, are foreign language immersion, are magnet schools for the arts, for math and science, for international relations, etc. My kids can lottery into different schools based on their interests and earn college credit. I would only consider that one charter school if they didn't get into the high school of their choice.

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answers from Washington DC on

my own education was similar to catholic school, a private christian brit school. the religious ed wasn't as doctrinal or vigorous as catholic school, but it was very strict by american public school standards, and i quite frankly loved it.
as a homeschooler i played around with a variety of methods, and never settled into a single one. but i really really like the classical method and think it has a lot to offer.
you're in a great position of having two good options from which to choose. i think i'd lean slightly toward the charter school, as catholic schools can be wonderful, but also have a well-deserved reputation as potential horror stories. my husband is permanently scarred from sadistic nuns. i gather they've reformed a lot from the bad old days, though.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I am familiar with classical education. Some of my homeschooling friends are doing some combination of it and the kids are definitely learning more deeply, than what they would have learned in school (public or private).

Susan Wise Bauer's CD History of the World is wonderful.

The type of kid who would do well in a classical education is one who wants to learn as much as she or he can. Someone who loves learning and wants to go deep.

I was raised a Catholic and never went to Catholic school. I am now a Bible reading Christian and I would never send my children to Catholic school. I know there are loved and popular Catholic schools in my area, but I still would not do it.

This ministry reaches out to Catholics. There are articles and testimonials.

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answers from Cumberland on

Do not count on the government, (and, yes, charter schools rely on tax dollars from local, state and federal funds) to properly care for, and educate your children. Catholic school is the way to go-hands down.

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answers from Washington DC on

You need to look at who is doing the teaching.
In catholic school, the teachers are not required to be certified, nor are they required to keep that certification current like they are in public school. In most public schools the teachers are also required to have a masters degree.
Do some research... Find out who will be teaching your kid.
I firmly believe that you can get an excellent education out of any public school in the nation. You need to be involved, make sure your kids are motivated, and are ready to learn. If you need to supplement their education with extra music lessons, trips to museums, and other activities, you do it.

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answers from Washington DC on


It all depends upon which schools your are considering here in the NOVA area.

St. Johns or Fairfax Christian? Both are Catholic schools but TOTALLY different.

Which charter school? To the best of my knowledge, Fairfax County does not have a Charter school.

It's hard to answer this question without knowing more...It would help to find out HOW your child learns. What your child is interested in...does your child need a FIRM, VERY STRUCTURED environment (Catholic School) or alternative? is this for elementary or middle school or high school?

There's nothing wrong with the "traditional" or classical schooling/education.
If you are an involved parent - the education will be good to great! If you just let the school "ride" then who knows!?

Good luck!

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answers from Washington DC on

My sister's kids attended Catholic school in Rockville, MD for K-8. She said they did not receive a better education than a public school and she only did it because it was really important to her husband, but she feels she wasted all that money. When I was in Texas and where I'm moving in Virginia, both have good public schools so I see no need to pay for private school. The only way I'd pay for private school is if there education was lacking, they were bullied, or needed special assistance.

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answers from Anchorage on

Well, I would never choose a religious school because we are not Christian, so not sure I can help too much. How do each of the schools you are looking at rate? How important are the natural sciences to you in regards to your children's education?

If it was me I would tour the schools, and ask a lot of questions regarding what they teach.



answers from Honolulu on

I guess I am not a big help but I am not really a fan of either option. I would be concerned with the classical education because I have heard that it doesn't normally include enough science, hands on and such.
I am catholic and considered catholic education but after hearing of multiple bad experiences I have decided against it. My biggest recent issue was with the most prestigious catholic school in my area. They kicked out a young girl primarily due to some learning disabilities that really should have been accommodated and supported. There are other things I have seen that make me question the integrity of a few different catholic schools that I am aquainted with. Of course, this wasn't at the schools you are considering and I don't know what you value. To me, this should be considered in addition to the curriculum.



answers from Washington DC on

I am a teacher who has taught at a private independent school that was $20,000 a year, a Montessori school, and a public school. I can tell you that it depends on the school and your child. Every child is different and excels in different ways using different teaching methods

I watched good families work their tails off to send their child to the private school I worked in and it was heartbreaking. There was no support for any child that didn't fit a certain mold. Very few of the teachers were certified if any, including myself at the time, some were extremely lazy, and one didn't even know how to write a sentence!!! Others, of course, were extremely hard-working. They also use the teachers to fill all extra duties in the school. Our primary focus was getting and dishing out the lunch to each student and carpool line. We fit teaching in between. I had a ridiculously bright student and tried to get support for him to no avail. Parents were discouraged from teaching or encouraging their kids to learn anything before the grade level we taught it in. A child wanted to learn multiplication and her family was told not to encourage it because we didn't teach it till 4th grade. One of my colleagues there put both of her kids through this school. She had to get her son a math tutor when he went to public high school because he was behind the rest of the kids. I could go on and on with examples.

Hence, I left and was pleasantly surprised when I got certified and moved on to public school to find that all I had to do was teach, no extra duties, and I got paid $15,000 more! I also had a whole TEAM of people to support me with students with different needs! It was and continues to be AWESOME!

That said, there are some awesome private schools. I went to private Catholic schools all my life and I loved every minute of it. It was perfect for my personality and who I was as a learner. I was tortured when I had to make the decision for my son and also leaned toward private Catholic school b/c of what it did for me. He's not me and we have an excellent public school near us with an excellent reputation so we decided to see how he does there since it's free. If there's ever any problem, then we can pull him and put him in private school.

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