Sending Child to Christian School If Family Is Not Christian?

Updated on January 30, 2010
B.Z. asks from Streamwood, IL
16 answers

When weighing my options for sending my 3 year old son to full-day care in the fall, I'm gravitating to the private schools in my area for several reasons (i.e. behavior mgmt techniques, character building, reading instruction). These are Lutheran, Catholic and Baptist. We practice none of these. The administrators explained how there are other families with children in attendance who practice non-Christian beliefs, but I'm not clear on how it works for those families. What are the challenges, and how do you handle them?

I asked the schools how they would handle my son coming to school with questions and comments about what his family believes (i.e. we're for gay marriage), and the responses ranged from directing him to the Bible for the truth to saying, "That's interesting, you should talk with your parents about that." It's difficult to know exactly WHAT would be said to my son in the moment, and I'm sure it depends on the teacher who responds.

It's tricky for me to give up the spiritual/character training that I'm doing in my home right now to someone with possibly VERY different beliefs. How can I manage this better?

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So What Happened?

I would love to hear from more parents about the specific challenges they encounted when sending non-Christian children to Christian schools.

We are agnostic, and we would love to send him through "God is love" indoctrination. A non-denominational private school sounds great! But we are really okay with "benign" spiritual guidance in specific religions during our son's early years. It's important for us that the focus be on the New Testament in this case. I would not be surprised if he was playing house with two girl dolls as the mommies. In some Christian environments, the children around my son would say, "That's wrong!" or otherwise judge our son for his understanding of the world. THIS is the type of environment where I cannot send him.

We plan to send our son to public school at some point in his elementary schooling. We aren't against public school, and I believe that the moral training that he received/s with us and with a morally focused school in early years will set the stage for his success there.

I found a school. It appears to be the right place for us. I meet his teacher tomorrow, and your perspectives helped me prepare better for that meeting. Thank you!

More Answers



answers from New York on

I am not of any Christian denomination and I would never have considered sending my kids to a Christian school. You might look into other private school that are not religious based. Good luck!

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answers from Richmond on

honestly, i would be uncomfortable sending a child that is being raised in a non christian household to a christian school. because the child will be exposed to a very different set of ideals then what he/she is growing up with,and its very likely that the child will be told that they are wrong for not being in a christian household. you would probably be better off, with less potential conflicts both now and down the road, shopping around and finding a secular, non religious school for the child, they may not have the same structure and discipline as a christian based school, but they wouldnt conflict with your set of values either.
K. h.

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answers from Denver on

Hi B. - I'm really sorry for being blunt but if you dont want your child to have any kind of Christian education, then by all means DO NOT send them to a Christian school. You are only setting yourself up for frustration. There are lots and lots of secular pre-schools out there.

Please also don't confuse your issues with those of your son. I mean really, what 3 yr old is going to go to school and ask to talk about the teacher's views on gay marriage! The appropriate response to those kinds of questions, regardless of public or private school is "ask your mommy or daddy about that". Those are issues that come up at a much older grade level than preschool. My oldest went to a Christian preschool. They would say a little prayer before snack time "Dear God, thank you for this food and all that you do for us every day, Amen." Mostly they worked on academics and character. Kids can learn alot about good character and bad character from reading Bible stories, even if you only believe they are mythical.

I just wonder if you are over-thinking this.

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answers from Mansfield on

My daughter attended a Christian school for Kindergarten. We are Christians so I didn't have any of the concerns you are facing. I will tell you that they teach Christian beliefs in all aspects of learning. They memorize Bible verses weekly, Bible or Christian based poems, and learn the books of the Bible. The books they learn to read on teach Christian principals and are made for Christian schools by a christian publishing company. They pray before they begin their day, snack and before leaving school. The science is Biblical and Creation based. They are taught Bible stories and do activities surrounding them. All school programs and functions are Christian based, fundraisers for missionaries, the Christmas program is actually about the birth of Christ, not santa and the reindeer. Easter is about Christ dying and rising again, not the bunny and the eggs represent Christs empty tomb. As for the reasons you are looking to send your son to a Christian school, you are right. The behavior managment, character building and reading as well as math instruction are superb. Far advanced to a public education, but are you willing to completely confuse your child by what you are teaching at home and what he will be taught at school. As I said we are Christians however some of the school which we choose to send our daughter beliefs were different then ours. So we had to also use our churches beliefs to show we were not making stuff up to our daugter who wanted to believe what was taught at her school above all (after all it was school). This particular school taught that women should always wear skirts and dresses, infact my friends son told her she was going to hell for wearing pants and that he didn't want to trick or treat anymore because halloween was evil. Those things we do not believe and our church does not support those beliefs either so I had that to back up what I was teaching but it is still hard for some kids to understand what they are being taught at school is not what you believe at home. (side note: that is not the reason she no longer goes to that school, I just couldn't afford to send 3 kids to a private school).
So if you do not believe this way and do not want your child taught these truths then do not send him to a Christian school. We have a non christian private school in our city as well. You could look into that for the private education without the Christian teaching. Hope this helps :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Hi B.,

For some reason "respond all" is not working right now, but I just wanted to give you a shout out and say, "great job" for putting so much thought and effort into this decision. It IS important and you are entrusting your precious child to the care of others for 6+ hours a day so I think it important that your values are honored there.

I am an atheist, my kids go to a wonderful private, secular school (Progressive Education model) and I totally disagree with the previous poster who said something like, "What 3-year old comes to school and talks about gay marriage?"

-MINE DID! We talk about it at home. We talk about civil rights. We talk about discrimination and what WE can do to change things. Our friends are gay and lesbian and have partners and some have spouses (Canadian marriages) and most have kids, who go to school and talk about their families and WANT to feel welcomed and their families honored. So when my kid brought it up in class, thankfully she was in a school who said, "Yes, let's talk!" and they all had a nice chat about how all families are unique and wonderful and that some day in the USA everyone, including gay and lesbian parents, will have equal rights to marry!

Then, my child (5 at the time) wrote a letter to the former Secretary of Education, Margaret Spelling, to tell her that she thinks Ms. Spelling was wrong about cancelling the Arthur episode where Buster visits a farm run by two lesbian mothers. Ms. Spelling thought it "set a bad example for kids". That made my child mad and she wrote, "Maybe you don't know families who have two mommies, but I do, and my cousin has two mommies. And maybe you should meet some, because they are nice and normal and you shouldn't say things that make their kids sad." Hurrah!! (I kept a copy for my scrapbook!) The teacher mailed the letter for us and several other kids wrote letters and colored pictures of their families (and ALL looked lovely and unique with all kids of parents!)

So, hurrah to you for being open-minded and supporting equal rights and raising your baby to be thoughtful and someone who will celebrate this diverse world of ours!! Hopefully, you will find a school that is the perfect match for your family.

Good luck at your school meeting this week!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Hi B.,

we grapple with the same issue. We are an atheist family and our extended family wants us to move closer to them in the South - a real issue for us as we fear discrimination for us and our daughter due to our (non)beliefs.

If you pick a christian school, there will likely be some kind of indoctrination, more in some schools, less in others. That is the nature of these schools. Now if you are of another faith or even agnostic, my impression is that you will probably be able to find a school that you will feel comfortable with, even if you do not practice that particular religion. There are many Christian schools who are quite tolerant of different viewpoints, as long as there is a common belief in a God.

For us, who do not believe in any sort of higher power, it is more difficult. Fortunately where we live now, there is a braod choice of secular private schools and a few good public school systems as well. This is one of the main reason that we are hesitant to move to an area with less choice.



answers from Pittsburgh on

Will the school give you names of other parents that you can talk to? Since every school is different, and they handle things differently, I think you should talk to a parent whose kids go to that particular school and ask them.

If these schools make you uncomfortable before you even enroll your child, then why consider them at all? Are there other options in your area? Check into those.



answers from Indianapolis on

I never thought about sending my children to a Christian school untilmy daughter was in 2nd grade and OMG the things she learned from the other children saddened my heart. Things I didn't learn probably untilI was in high school. So yes we ended up sending her to Catholic scool and I have not regreted it for one second. It has actually made a big difference in my daughter. They don't brain wash your child either. They give them a good spiritual foundation that assists them in making appropriate choices in life. For that I'm very grateful. But she comes from a Christian family. So all of my children will go, public school is out for us. She loves her new school goes happy and comes home happy. Unlike before with public school. She is in an environment that is condusive to learning. But our public school system leaves a lot to be desired. You just have to outweigh the pros and cons according to your family. What ever decision you make will be the right one for your child. If you do decide he will learn christian values and when he is older he may have alot of questions for you. Lots of luck!



answers from Chicago on

this is interesting. i knew some people like this as well. i can see your interest and frustration with some of the rules with traditional churches/religious beliefs. regarding gay marriage and discussing that at a preschool, i agree the teachers aren't going to bring it up, but what if your son is talking about friends who may have 2 mommies or 2 daddies; i do wonder how the school will react to that. i know some that would say that's not right.

i do think a lot of people like the structure of private/christian schools because it's "safer" than public schools.

sounds like you are taking the right steps to make the best decision- good luck to you!



answers from Salt Lake City on

we host boys from so. korea that attend a "non dimensional" christian school. (not sure how that is supposed to work exactly lol) they attend bible class. one of the boys grew up christian the other not. its been interesting with both of them as they come home with questions and things teachers have told them including one teacher who is VERY loud in his dissaproval of our religion and discusses it often--I just let the house be open for any questions they come home with. that being said--they are teenagers. I debated having my dd go there for kindgergarten in 2 yrs and am actually relieved we will be transferring before then so I don't have to make that choice. there aren't a lot of private schools in our area.
I would see if you can talk with the actual teachers your son would have and pose those questions to them. ask them what is taught in the curriculum as far as those things go and how they would handle those types of questions. I think that will be the best way for you to feel out how you feel about sending your child to the care of them--and what he will be coming home with value wise.



answers from Chicago on

I can see you've already decided, but just to add yet another perspective, I was sent to a Christian school that was very fundamentalist and dogmatic. Our church was pretty liberal by comparison. I don't think my family realized what an intolerant view the school had, and kids won't necessarily tell you. (I didn't.)

I am sure that the school I went to was an extreme example, but I would not feel comfortable myself sending my child to any school where religion is integrated into the curriculum. Looking back, I'm shocked by the things teachers said casually in class about who was going to hell or whatever. There was no attempt to be tactful about differences of opinion about God.

I wouldn't mind sending my kids to religious training separate from school (like sunday school) but I would not want it integrated into their daily life.



answers from Pueblo on

My daughter goes to Catholic school. We are Catholic, but out of the ten kids in her class, at least 3 are not. There is a Mormon, a Buddhist, and a non-demonational. The school expects all kids to do the routine during school, which in preschool, includes praying at the beginning of school and at snack time, yelling "Yay God" after the Pledge, and learning about God. In later classes, they have religious education classes.

The parent of the child who is Buddist likes the education and feels it gives her kids a well rounded education. I know another who sent her kids there preschool and pre-k, but did not continue when the religious education classes started.

I think there are questions kids ask at any school and could be directed to the bible or to parents - it depends on the teacher ANYWHERE!

I think to look at the quality of education overall and determine if the reading, writing and math are superior, then deal with the questions that arise about education. My kids will get a superior education at their school over public school here, so the decision was easy for us!

Good luck!



answers from Chicago on

My mother is a very staunch Catholic, but for preschool she sent all 5 of us kids to a Lutheran preschool. I do not think that someone so young will be "brainwashed," although I do expect that the teachers in Protestant schools are more likely to proselytize thank those in Catholic schools. Protestant denominations, in general, tend to put forth much greater effort into evangelization that do Catholics.

I went to Catholic school from K-12, and all of college. During my K-12 years, I expect about 20-25% of the students were non-Catholic, and about 5-10% non-religious. In all the years of my attendance at Catholic schools, I can only think of 1 student who became Catholic. I believe that, by far, the most important influence on a child's religious/spiritual upbringing is their own family life.

Good luck choosing!!



answers from Detroit on

We currently send our 2 oldest ( 8 and 5) to a nondenominational christian school. There are over 30 different churches / belief sets represented in the 150 kids that attend. Including ours. Which is not a "main stream " belief set.

There are things that others do that we do not. (We do not keep Christmas or Easter. We are not Jewish by any means but do keep Passover, Tabernacles AND all the biblical feastdays that the bible itself says to. It is a way WE personally bring our faith into OUR everyday lives.)

Sending your child to a "religious" school of a specific denomination will result in those belifs being taught if not in class, thru random comments the kids hear.
Sending your kids to a "nondenominational" school will result in a more varied outlook by having several different denominations represented by the teachers. They will be more cautious about making blanket statements about beliefs.

I would much rather send my kids to be taught by people who are trying to live moral lives with children that are respectful around them than to a public school where the attitudes are horrendous, the language is gutter talk at best, the clothes are risque no matter what the "dress code" is (My 8 yr old does not need the example of the short shorts, butt baring pants, skimpy tight clothes, and kids in her class already wearing makeup and talking about sex) No, not all kids in public school are bad examples... But there is always that one "cool" kid everyone is trying to emulate. I want to raise my daughter to not feel the pressure to follow them. :-) Idealistic? Maybe... But you do what you can.

There is no way to forsee all the different ways things COULD come up. But when they do you could answer them like we do.
Present the facts.
(as an example) When our daughter first asked us why we don't "do" christmas we told her that it is nowhere in the bible. (Which is TRUE).
That what is in the bible is that he was not born in winter (True according to 99.9% of biblical scholars)
That alot of what people "do" at christmas is not good in Gods eyes and the good stuff we try to do year round.

We also stress that lots of people "do" christmas and that does not make them "bad" people... They just don't see it the same way we do. And at our house, this is how we do it....

We realize that unless we lock our kids in our house for the rest of their lives and have no media exposure they will see/ hear things that are not 100 % in our book of whats "right". We try to give them the tools to deal with it by giving them the facts WHEN THEY ASK ABOUT IT... Not brainwashing them into little religious deciples... lol

The main thing is that a "denomination specific " school will employ only those who are of that denomination and your kids will have more of the kids from that denomination around them.
A non denominational school will have a broader mix of teachers and students to influence them.

Read what the mission statements of the schools are.
Any "christian based" school will have certain basis.
#1. Belief in a God and a Messiah
#2. The bible is truth and should be used as a guide in our lives (ie no lies, stealing, treatment of other, respect of elders, kindness to fellow man, etc.)

If you do not believe in THOSE tenants, then perhaps a "charter" school would be more up your alley...

Good luck and happy searching!!!



answers from Houston on

unless you want him to be turned into a christian ( agood thing lol)



answers from Detroit on

If you have such a difference in beliefs, why not consider a different private school? From what stories my mom told me from her days of going to a private Catholic school~ she despised it and even to this day, she still has her emotional issues from it. She is also VERY JUDGMENTAL against all.

Sometimes conformity works for those that prefer it... Sometimes for those that have an open mind and have other beliefs, it is not a good idea. (Trust me... I would never consider this for my son as I am a natural spiritualist so I have a very different view.)

My suggestion would be to wait until he is old enough to decide if he prefers a 'religion' to his choosing.

Besides, I firmly believe that parents shape their child by example as we are role models for all behavior and actions - positive and negative. Your son is three right now. There is no reason to fear that you cannot 'shape' your child into the boy you want to see him as. As long as you guide him - even in public school, he will be fine. Or home school him.

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