Is a Faith-Based School Right for You?
What to Consider in Choosing the Right School for Your Kids
If you’re thinking about sending your child to a faith-based school, there are many factors to consider just like with shopping for any private school. Academics, enrichment opportunities, location, and price are just a few of the things you’ll want to weigh out. With faith-based schools, however, there are additional considerations. The following guide will help you to make an informed decision in choosing the school that’s best for your family and your child’s education and avoid a costly mistake.
What are the reasons parents choose faith-based schools?
Many parents of various faiths and even of no faith contemplate the idea of sending their kids to a faith-based school. For those considering a private school, religious schools are sometimes a more affordable alternative. But there are many other reasons families may consider a faith-based school as well. Parents are often looking for a school that provides their child with one or more of the following:
- a religious education that mirrors the families’ beliefs
- teachings that instill faith and obedience to God
- a better learning environment
- the benefits of smaller class sizes
- more individualized attention
- a feeling of belonging in a community
- better college preparation
- a more convenient or safer location than alternative options in the area
Is a faith-based education right for your family?
If you’re considering sending your child to a faith-based school, you’ll want to consider several factors. Begin by making a list of all the reasons, or the pros, for sending your kids to a faith-based school. This may include any of the reasons mentioned above, among many others.
But in making a thoughtful decision, it’s also important to consider the cons. For your family, these may include:
- the amount of time spent on religious studies, prayer, and other faith-related activities that takes away from academics
- admission policies that may exclude or not adequately assist children with particular learning, behavioral, or mental health disabilities, or other groups
- fewer extracurricular activities
- unaccredited textbooks and/or science and history curriculums based on the school’s beliefs rather than verified facts
- lack of exposure to other faiths and cultures
Keep in mind, every faith-based school is different. The above may apply to some religious schools and not others.
How to choose a faith-based school that’s right for your family
If you’ve weighed out the pros and cons and decided in favor of a faith-based education for your child, the next step is to determine which school is right for your family. You’ll want to ask many of the same questions you would for any private school, such as:
- How much is tuition?
- Is financial aid available?
- What is the student-teacher ratio?
- What are the teachers’ qualifications and how are teachers supported?
- How much homework is there?
- What help is available if my child is struggling academically?
- What is the grading system?
- Are uniforms required, or is there a dress code?
- What is the discipline policy?
- What extracurricular activities are available?
- What is the school’s culture like?
- What is the school’s system for accountability?
In regards to the last question, faith-based schools don’t have the same governmental regulations as public schools. So religious schools may not meet the same stringent requirements. A few areas that may differ include teacher certification, curriculum, textbooks, special education, length of the school year, and health and safety requirements, among other aspects.
Religious factors to consider when choosing a school
Whether your family is religious or not, there are several questions you’ll want to ask to determine if the school is right for your child.
If your family is religious, you may want to look for a school within your faith. If your family isn’t religious or is considering a school of another denomination, you’ll want to find out how much of the curriculum and day is spent on faith-based activities.
Also, keep in mind that beliefs and practices vary widely even within particular religions and among denominations. You want to make sure the values instilled by the school you’re considering are in line with yours. To help you make that determination, talk to other parents whose kids attend the school. Also, ask school staff the following:
- How much of the school’s faith is embedded in the curriculum? What are the school’s teachings in science regarding biology and evolution? What about history, such as when life on earth began?
- How is religion taught in the classroom? Do students learn about other faiths as well? If so, are teachings about different beliefs positive and respectful? Or does the school discourage learning about other religions?
- What does the physical setting of the school and classrooms look like? Is it adorned with a lot of religious symbols and statements?
- What are the school’s beliefs and teachings on gender, sexual orientation, race, and other religions? Does the school promote equality and acceptance?
- If your family isn’t of the same faith as the school, what are your child’s options? Can your child opt out of religious classes, chapel time, prayer, and faith activities, and use that time to meditate, quietly express their own spiritual beliefs, or do homework?
- Can students of other faiths celebrate their own religious holidays at school instead of the school’s religious holidays?
- Does the school discourage kids from mixing with those of other faiths outside of school?
Whether your family is of the particular faith of the school or not, make sure you’re comfortable with the answers. Also, ask for a tour of the school, which can provide additional insight into many of these questions.
Choosing the right school for your child requires leg-work and can be a tough decision. But by making an informed decision, you can alleviate significant stress for yourself and your child. It will also ease your child’s adjustment to the new school and reduce the likelihood of any regrets.
By Kimberly Blaker
Cyril and Methodius Catholic School
Cyril and Methodius School provides an excellent Catholic education from Pre-K through 8th grade in a compassionate environment that strives to develop each student spiritually, academically, physically, and emotionally. In 2019, SSCM was awarded a National Blue Ribbon, which is a trademark of excellence in education. This prestigious recognition is only awarded to 50 non-public schools throughout the nation. Our Philosophy is to guide each child to realize their unique talents and fulfill his/her potential. Our goal is to enrich and develop each student through Catholic Faith by promoting self-esteem, discipline, common sense, and courtesy in a positive, healthy, respectful and safe environment. Address: 607 Sobieski St, Lemont, IL 60439. (630) 257-6488. school.stcyril.org
Immaculate Conception Grade School
As an educational ministry of Immaculate Conception Parish, we partner with parents to prepare
students for lives as Catholic leaders. As Christians empowered by the Holy Spirit, we focus on formation through prayer, message, concern, and service to community. We teach students to live lives that embody these values, are centered in Christ, and strive for their greatest academic potential. We invite you to schedule a tour or shadow day and take a closer look. Pre-K 3 through 8th Grade. Contact Mrs. Sheila Wachholder, Office Manager at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Registration for 2021-2022 opens Sunday, January 31, 2021. Address: 132 Arthur Street, Elmhurst, IL 60126. 630.530.3490. www.icgradeschoolelmhurst.org
St. John of the Cross Parish School
Rooted in Faith, Growing in Knowledge. Father Bennett founded St. John of the Cross Parish School in 1961 with the idea that a school would be the foundation of the parish. Our parish school prides itself on multi-generational Catholic traditions and achievement alongside a challenging educational experience that fosters long-term student success. We integrate faith into every area of our curriculum as our students focus on the three R’s: Ready, Respectful, Responsible. Each day begins with an all-school prayer written and read by students followed by the Prayer of St. Francis, setting the tone for our day. For almost 60 years our school community has continued to provide a safe and dynamic Catholic environment where faith is nourished and knowledge grows. St. John of the Cross Parish School is a multiple National Blue Ribbon School Awardee, 2012 and 2020. Please join us on January 31st from 12:00-1:30 on our Virtual Open House. Contact our Director of Advancement, Tiffany White, to reserve your spot and receive the zoom link.: email@example.com. Address: 708 51st Street, Western Springs, IL 60558. (708)-246-4454 Ext.213. www.stjohnofthecross.org/school