For my husband and me, it was a relatively easy decision. Even though I was a product of Catholic school myself. Even though I had taught in a Catholic school before our kids were born. When it came time for us to send our oldest son to kindergarten, it was to the local public elementary school.
It wasn’t that we were denying our Faith. We didn’t have a child with special needs that made public school our only option. And while it would’ve been tight, we could have paid the tuition for our parish’s school. Like many, many other young parents in our shoes, though, we chose to utilize the public school in our neighborhood because it was the best fit for our family.
The Public School Option
There are so many options available to parents when it comes to educating their children. There’s Catholic school, homeschool, public school, private school (both religious and secular), co-op schools, and the list goes on. But very often in Catholic communities, we only discuss the first two options: Catholic school and homeschool.
Rarely do we talk about public school as a viable option for our Catholic kids. More often than not, it’s seen as the back-up plan or the sad alternative we don’t actually want to choose. For many Catholic parents, though, public schooling isn’t that at all!
As we near the beginning of another school year, let’s take a look at some of the things that public school parents would like our Catholic community to know.
What is the main reason(s) you send your child(ren) to public school?
For most moms I know, there are two main reasons that their families have chosen to utilize their local public school.
- They mention the high cost of Catholic schools.
- They indicate the quality or high rating of the public school in their area.
As someone I know and love once put it, “When it comes to our family’s education dollars, the bucket is only so full. Where do we think it’s wisest to spend those dollars, in third grade or for college?” And there’s no denying that, for many people, even the scholarships or sibling discounts available wouldn’t bring the cost of Catholic school into reach.
Of course, we all want the highest quality education for our children. In my area of Florida, we are particularly blessed with excellent public schools. Since our tax dollars are already paying for them and they consistently rate highest in the state, we are quite happy to make use of them.
Other Reasons to Public School
For sure, there are as many different reasons behind educational choices as there are families. Some reasons people offered were things I hadn’t even thought of before! Here’s what they had to say:
- Their child needs an IEP (individualized education plan) or has special needs and can’t get the services they require at a private school.
- They like the diversity found in a public school setting.
- Moms are grateful for the exposure to what it means for their children to have to learn to live their Faith in the world (among others of different faiths/lifestyles).
- Public school offers higher quality arts/music programs.
- One parent isn’t Catholic.
- The nearest Catholic school is too far away.
- One or both parents teach at the public school.
- Their child(ren) experienced bullying at the Catholic school.
- The parents themselves are the products of public schools.
How do you ensure that your child(ren) learns/lives their faith while attending public school?
I think if we’re being honest, we can all answer this question by saying, “I don’t have all the answers, but I’m doing the best I can.”
Whatever name it goes by at your parish, religious education is a mainstay in how we help our kids learn the tenets of their Faith. PSR, PREP, RE, CCD—they all mean a big commitment to a family and are how we bring our children to the beauty of the Sacraments. Liturgical living (celebrating feast days, incorporating art/food/Saints into daily life) can be great for kids and families, too!
Just like Catholic school parents, we spend time in family prayer, we take our children to Sunday Mass, and even daily Mass on occasion. We teach them the importance of being involved in our parish and seeing it as an extension of our own family. Promoting involvement in activities like youth groups, altar serving, music ministry, boys and girls clubs, and service organizations are both fun and enriching!
Another important way to teach our children the value of the Faith in their lives is through family discussions. As our children get older and advance through public school, they are going to witness a lot. Having conversations about what they experience in the world and how to see it through the lens of Faith is vital to forming both their Catholic identity and their worldview.
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What do you wish other people knew about public schooling Catholic kids?
In my experience, there are a lot of assumptions people make when they learn that Catholic parents are sending their kids to public school. At one point or another, we may even feel like others are judging us because of which school our child attends. So, in an effort to affirm and encourage our public schooling sisters, allow me to share some heartfelt sentiments that many of us share.
First and foremost, our choice to send our children to public school is not a reflection on how dearly we love our Catholic Faith and how much we want to pass it on to our children. It’s not a cop-out or an easy choice. And we certainly aren’t alone! Every parish has some sort of religious education program for school kids. It’s great for our kids to see friends from church out “in the world” at their schools.
Other notions people have shared with me are:
- Public school is an early start in the “mission field” of life. It gives our kids an opportunity to choose to make their Faith their own.
- God made all kinds of different people and this is one way to be able to love them.
- Our kids get to bring their Faith to school, too.
- Public school gives kids a great opportunity to excel academically.
- Sometimes, we do feel a little “Catholic guilt” for our choice even though we know it’s the right one for our family.
- Going to Catholic school does not ensure your children will stay Catholic, and public school doesn’t ensure they won’t.
Have a Great School Year!
Regardless of what choice your family makes concerning school this year, I hope the year is a good one! Best of luck and abundant blessings on all of our educational endeavors! And may you and your children bloom in knowledge, in character, in virtue, and in the love of the Lord over the coming months and always.
Do your kids attend public school? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!Public Schooling Catholic Kids #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Beth Williby is a regular contributor to the BIS blog. She is a mom of four pretty amazing humans and has been married to her college sweetheart for twenty years. She does her best praying through singing and feeding the people she loves. Having grown up in the Midwest, she now calls Northeast Florida home. You can find out more about her here.