Lately I’ve found myself explaining our choice to send our kids to a parochial school. A number of parents have asked why we choose to pay money when public schools are “free”. They ask if we don’t think the public schools are “good enough” for our kids, (no, the public schools around here are fine schools). They comment about how expensive it is for us to send three kids to a church based school and wonder why on earth we would spend money over and above the tax money we pay for the public schools (its all relative and we all get to choose where we spend our money). They wonder if its simply because I went to a parochial school that we send our kids to one etc. (my husband went to public school all his life – no problem there). So aside from the NOYB answer I want to give, there are a lot of reasons that go into choosing a non-public school.
School choice is a very personal matter for each family, just as decisions to home school are very personal. We know that we are paying additional for an education that is very similar to the education received in the public schools. Our experiences with choosing a school for our kids have involved both public and parochial schools as our oldest daughter attended a public school from kindergarten through the middle of 3rd grade when we moved across the country to another community so we have seen it from both sides
I guess the best way I can explain our choice is that we choose to send our kids to a school that we know works to back up the moral basis we are working to instill at home. I’ve been verbally attacked for saying that and I’ve been accused of not believing that the public schools are providing a “moral education” but that is not what I mean at all. What I mean is we are working to instill Christian faith and values in our children and we like that the school that we are sending them to operates in a manner that reinforces those values. We like that their school life and faith life mix. Not everyone likes that, some people do not want their faith lives and school lives to mix and that is absolutely fine and their choice – we choose our way.
That said, it also does not mean that we are always in lock step with the school and doctrine but for the most part we agree with and we consent to the education our children are receiving – anything that may contradict or be a bit different from what we are teaching at home can and will be addressed at home.
My experiences with public school were generally positive and in some instances was superior to the parochial school my children attend now. The art and music curriculum as well as the enrichment programs available were definitely superior at the public school. On the other hand there were some things that I was less comfortable with. A conversation that I had with the principal at the public school comes to mind when I try to explain part of our reason for not choosing another public school. We were talking about the school’s policy regarding inappropriate language in the classroom and on the school grounds. There was a boy who was in the 4th grade (9 years old) and he was especially mouthy and a big fan of vulgarity. The principal contacted the boy’s parents to come in and meet with them regarding the son’s behavior. When he addressed the issue with them they defended their son’s language usage by telling him that they “teach their kids that there are no bad words”. The principal was floored by this because there are some words that never have a place in a classroom or in an elementary school but these parents insisted that their children are permitted to say whatever they like and that their child should not be punished for his language. I can’t say for sure but I’m reasonably positive that I’m more likely to run into parents with that mindset at public schools than I am at parochial schools. Just a hunch.
We are fortunate to live in an area with good public as well as good parochial schools, the children in this school district have access to excellent teachers and a school system rated Excellent by the State of Ohio but I think that ultimately the main reason we choose parochial schools is because in the end I know that the overwhelming majority of the teachers and parents there have a similar moral outlook on things. They can be liberal, conservative and everything in between but over all they want their kids to go to a school that reinforces the morality they are trying to provide their children at home. Some people may consider that exclusionary of other faiths but I think in a larger sense, because of the exposure, it teaches the kids to be considerate of faith in general. At least I hope it does.
As for the expense – for all three of my kids to go to their parochial school this year it will cost me over $2,000 less than it cost us for a year of day care for one of them.