Wedding Woes

School conundrum

Dear Prudence,
My smart and confident 5-year-old is set to start kindergarten and we are in a quandary about where to send her. The public schools where we live are overcrowded and not well regarded. My husband and I are both professionals, but we can’t shell out the dough for most private schools’ tuition around here. Except for one. It’s an outstanding private school (K–8) with good, caring teachers and that meets our budget. The problem is that it is a religious-based school (Presbyterian) and we are atheists. We sent her there for her first year of preschool and she loved it, but my husband and I felt it was too “churchy” and insular. At 3 years old she was talking about God’s love, Jesus, and how when you die, you turn to dust, and we felt it was too much, too soon. Is it wrong to “use” the religious school (we don’t have the same beliefs after all) solely for our kids’ educational purposes? If we do send her (and her younger sibling in a few years) how do we reconcile the messages she will receive at school and the lack of faith at home? I also don’t want her going into school saying “the wrong thing” she heard at home. Some friends have told us not to worry because “it’s just kindergarten,” but we want to make sure she gets off on the right foot. Please help!

—We Don’t Believe

Re: School conundrum

  • I don't think it's "wrong" to use the school for the schooling.  But, what the kid is bringing home is what they signed the kid up for.  And yeah, it's probably at some point going to lead to some ostracizing at school or proselytizing at home, maybe both.

    TBH, I wouldn't do it.  I have some thoughts about kids and church that I wouldn't allow my kid to be exposed to something like this unless there was actually no other option, especially at that age.  Use your time/money to bump up the public school education with outside tutors, extra-curricular activities, etc.

    To answer better, I'd be interested in knowing the level of actual education in these private vs. public schools.  Some of the private religious schools here are seriously lacking in actual academics, while there are others that are academically outstanding.
  • Thank god for charter schools. 

    Yeah, that's all I got. Our Catholic school system here has zero information about its academics online. I would hope if you actually schlep yourself out to one to check it out, they'll tell you, but man, that was definitely a point not in their favor. 

    And, I don't know. I think a smart kid will seek out other sources of knowledge, even if the school isn't that great. I don't think a middling public school is the devil for a bright kid - and it might teach them that life kind of sucks sometimes, and you just have to power through it. You know, like work. 

    I do know that if I weren't comfortable with whatever sort of morals education was going on, I wouldn't send my kid, no matter the academics. Grades are just grades - but morality is how you live your whole life, you know? 
  • (I think I posted on WP about Wooz's ceramics teacher at camp, who said "Only god can control the weather."  Which Wooz quoted.) 

    It's not the same situation, but our local YMCA is awesome.  Their day camps are fantastic, and very reasonably priced (just slightly more than daycare, and a much better fit for her interests and activity level).  Their kids' sports leagues are fantastic.  (Their workout facility is outstanding, too, though I almost never find time to go right now.)  They have a great pool complex.  And yeah, sometimes there's a prayer before a soccer game or you get a comment like god/weather, but most of the time it's very secular.  So we joined.

    I totally get that school =/= Y, because the kid will be there on a daily basis, and it sounds like the religious aspect is a lot more prominent.  If the local public schools are truly bad (I'd research this first--sometimes reputation =/= objective fact), they truly can't afford private schools, moving isn't an option, and there aren't any charter option, then in her shoes, I'd probably go for the Presbyterian school, for the following reasons:

    1.  Education is super-important to Mr. Heff and me. We moved to get away from a neighborhood school that we had serious, justifiable concerns about.  We do a lot focused around the kids' education, both formal and informal.  Part of this is because he went to small, rural schools his entire life that did a really shitty job of preparing him for the world.  Ex:  he wanted to go to MIT, and they required the physics ACT/SAT.  He had never had a physics class in his life up to that point, and he did not do well on the test.  He had to bust his ass in college (not MIT) just to catch up, and now he has a master's in mathematical finance. 

    He has had to work a lot harder than I have to achieve the same level of success, and he really doesn't want that for our kids.  So if I really felt that my only options were public or religious, and I truly thought the public school would shortchange my kids, I'd send them to the religious school.

    2.  There is a lot of religion in the world.  If you're raising your kids atheist, you're going to run into it all the time, regardless of where they go to school.  Especially once they're of an age where kids talk to each other.  (Wooz's BFF told her that when Wooz's fish died, he went to heaven.  Which Wooz then asserted to us had really happened.  And they're 100% public school.)  If the school is really over the top with it, then I would have major concerns, but otherwise, you're going to be dealing with it, regardless.

    3.  DH and I were both raised religious (Pentecostal and Catholic, respectively) and yet here we are.  (My mother is actually a director of religious education at a church, so I was definitely exposed to a lot of religion growing up.)  I feel like religion (or lack thereof) is just another thing, like drinking, drugs, sex, etc., where you talk to your kids about what you believe, you practice those beliefs at home, and then at some point they're out in the world making their own choices, and you let go and hope for the best.

    TL;DR:  team Christian school
  • MesmrEweMesmrEwe member
    Knottie Warrior 2500 Comments 500 Love Its First Answer
    edited July 2015

    Having had my kid in two private schools (one Catholic one Christian and this coming year we're still figuring out where she'll go)...  I can safely say from experience - send her kid to the Public school...  Public schools get a bad wrap, when the reality is Public schools need to take every kid they're given and work with them where they are at from the "Gifted" to the "Not so Gifted" while private schools get to "Cherry Pick" their students.  Not all kids are going to be great test takers.  Frankly, standardized tests are the biggest waste because they don't tell you what kind of person that student is. 

    Private schools get the reputation they do because if someone doesn't fit their particular mold they "cull them from the herd" you could say.  That's what we're dealing with for the eldest right now without going in to too much detail about the "Christian" school we sent her to (we moved her from the Catholic one because she was coming home purple from bullying and they refused to do anything about it)..  We're Catholic and the difference between the denominations really came through in things like they had a "Pledge to the Christian Flag" which isn't something as Catholics we do, and chapel is far different from attending mass, so explaining differences like that while explaining "when in Rome behave as the Romans", it may not seem like a lot between religions, but Christian to Athiest - yea... I couldn't imagine!  But also, if there happen to be any educational issues, many states exempt private schools from having to make accommodations, which, everyone's kid is from Lake Wobegon, but until they're in the school and in each particular teacher's classroom (some teachers are more natural at teaching students and not subjects), one doesn't know what their educational experience will be because that's out of a parent's control once they're at the school...

    Ugh - I just hate having to spend my summer "school shopping" - yet again!!!! (the "Christian" school even though DD is incredibly smart said "we aren't doing any service to her by allowing her to come back this fall"...ARGH - that's for us as parents to decide when it's not a disciplinary nor academic matter, but ANYWAY!)

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  • yes @ actual level of edumacation. one local private catholic high school here is academically rigorous and very highly regarded ; the other ... not so much. it's not even known for its athletics, so good luck to those dummies.
  • a friend of mine is an administrator (occupational? counselor) at a high school in our local district (which is huge - ~80 schools, ~110K kids). our district schools rank pretty high in the state/various report cards, and the pay is higher than average for the state. friend taught high school math classes in the district before she moved into the admin role, but was looking for a change a year or so ago. 

    friend was raised Catholic/went to Catholic school for elem., and still goes to services at a Christian (not Catholic) church every week. She decided to try and apply for a teaching job at one of the local private Christian secondary schools (don't remember the denomination) since she heard the pay was a good bit higher. 

    She went into the interview prepared to talk about her teaching experience/credentials, but all the principal cared about was her "relationship with Jesus." She got lots of questions about ministry/mission experience, church attendance, the Bible, etc - nothing on her education/teaching experience. She was offered a job, but ended up turning it down because they seemed more focused on her religious background than they did on her ability to teach/knowledge of the subject. 

    I think if I was in the parents' place, I'd really have to examine my options from an educational perspective and see where I thought my child would receive the best education. If time is being taken away from math/science/language/etc. to be spent in a chapel or a religious based class, i'd have to wonder if that would really benefit my kid. 

    FWIW, I'm agnostic, so I'm not 100% against my kid having exposure to religions/religious beliefs (and obviously making that choice when she's older) - but I'd be focused on what I feel will benefit her the most from a well-rounded educational perspective. 
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