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Dec. 7th, 2012

I have a 3 year old boy, Andy, who is bored to death in daycare and we are planning on enrolling him in pre-k for the next school year. His dad and I are divorced and our son's primary home is with his dad in the next town over. We have shared decision-making responsibilities (our state's fancy way of saying joint legal custody).

We agree that Andy should be in a fully accredited school (not another daycare facility) where he can transition to kindergarten and possibly primary school. There is no secular public pre-k or kindergarten available in the town that my son lives in, and since I am not financially prepared for primary parenting responsibilities, he has to live with his dad for the time being. We are looking at private programs. So far the best option, location-wise and financially, is a Catholic school.

I disagree with some of the core social teachings of the Church and I am concerned with what Andy will be learning (at this school, students in all levels have required religious ed and must attend Mass). We both are athiest and plan to give Andy a balanced, fact-based education when it comes to religion so he can make up his own mind about what he believes (or doesn't). So I am really uneasy when it comes to the idea of giving people money to tell my kid that gay people are bad (his uncles are gay), divorced people are bad (his parents and one set of grandparents are divorced), people with children out of wedlock are bad (my sister is expecting her first child soon), you can be a terrible person and if you just tell God you are sorry and say a few prayers you won't suffer any real consequences, God created every single thing on earth and loves everyone and everything except for certain types of people, etc. We both went to Catholic school as children and we don't have very fond memories of it (these were things that we were both taught). It really feels like the only feasible option, though.

Any suggestions from other parents who have been there? Would we be better to wait until Andy can live with me to enroll him in public kindergarten?

TL;DR: Athiest parents plan to send a blank-slate kid to Catholic school because there aren't many other options. Will we regret this?


( 31 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 8th, 2012 03:24 am (UTC)
My husband attended Catholic school and if anything, the experience only enforced his atheism.

In general, so long as your boy's father and you are on the same page in terms of what you want him to know, you can both head off the Catholic messages and it won't be a big deal. You just need to stay on top of what he's learning and do your own teaching at home.

Plus, I hardly think that they'd be drilling in the intolerance at such a young age. The message might more be "Yay god! Bible stories!" to start off.
Dec. 8th, 2012 03:33 am (UTC)
I think looking back I definitely questioned a lot of what we learned. I'm mostly concerned about him being in an environment where his questioning what he learns won't be supported :/
Dec. 8th, 2012 06:28 am (UTC)
But that questioning could be more on a teacher by teacher basis, rather than secular versus parochial. You aren't guaranteed to have instructors who support inquiry based learning, or a child being critical of the classroom content in a public school (as much as it pains me to say it)

As parents, you being just as involved as the teachers will have an equal if not greater impact in what your son learns and takes away from school. While a Catholic school might not be ideal, I don't think it's going to be a horror.

Good luck! I hope you figure something out :)
Dec. 8th, 2012 03:27 am (UTC)
Disclaimer: I have no experience with religious schools.
That said, I have 2 atheist kids (and one 2.5 yr. old who will most likely be an atheist). They would not be swayed by a religion class in school. We are very clear on our values and beliefs. Also, I seriously doubt they say a word about homosexuality or premarital sex in preschool.
But if you are really worried, I don't think pre-K is necessary AT ALL and I'm sure most daycares do a fine job preparing kids for kindergarten.
Dec. 8th, 2012 03:32 am (UTC)
Thanks. I think 90% of the problem is that he is in a neighborhood home daycare and this particular place is more like babysitting all the neighbor's kids and there is way too much screen time. She's licensed but not a licensed educator. He is bored to death.
Dec. 8th, 2012 02:21 pm (UTC)
To me this says the problem is not in-home daycare, but this particular daycare. My DD is in an in-home daycare and the babysitter is awesome. The stuff that she teaches the kids and the activities she does with them are far better than the stuff my housemates' kids come home from their accredited preschool, IMO. Mine has no screen time at daycare, either, FWIW. It's a matter of finding a provider whose values and parenting/teaching style are in line with yours.
Dec. 8th, 2012 05:33 pm (UTC)
I agree with this. My son was in a small in-home daycare that did a lot of pre-K work. He learned a ton and loved it!
Dec. 8th, 2012 03:48 am (UTC)
If your son is bored at preschool, I think he is probably at the wrong place. My children are exhausted when they get home and their days are full of activities, there's really no chance for them to get bored.

The elementary schools here have a Voluntary pre-k that is paid by the state, do they have that where you live?
Dec. 8th, 2012 03:58 am (UTC)
Unfortunately not in the town where Andy lives. In my city there's a program that's part of the high school, but there is still tuition assessed, spots are limited to children in certain neighborhoods, and there's no before/after school program. I think we finally caught on that kindergarten is important and began public funding of it only within the past 5 years or so (we're in New Hampshire).
Dec. 8th, 2012 03:50 am (UTC)
I'd keep looking but keep the catholic school in mind. You could maybe look and see if there is a Montessori school anywhere near his dad?
Dec. 8th, 2012 05:12 am (UTC)
We had good luck with a Montessori-influenced Pre-K program run by a United Methodist church.
Dec. 8th, 2012 04:07 am (UTC)
Replace atheist with "Jew" and you have a situation similar to mine. My husband and I are together but we live in an area w bad public schools and tons of catholic schools.

If we had the $ we would do Montessori or Waldorf. We don't so we will be homeschooling.

I see it this way: I'm putting a lot of work into raising my kids Jewish. And we are in the minority religions wise. Why would I risk it? And no, going to mass or catholic school won't automatically turn you catholic but my folks work for the catholic schools and I know about how much Jesus is in the curriculum. And they work with 2 liberal schools.

I'd recommend Waldorf or Montessori over catholic if you're not Christian for sure
Dec. 8th, 2012 02:26 pm (UTC)
Or goddard! :)
Dec. 8th, 2012 04:10 am (UTC)
I'm in a similar situation (or will be soon, rather) where the only preschools I'd be able to afford are religious-based. After a lot of thought, I've personally decided that I'd do pretty much anything to avoid sending my son to a religious school, even if it means skipping preschool. I think it would be too hard on my son to hear one thing from his teachers/staff and another from me, and I think it would irritate the school to have my son inevitably argue with his teachers.
Dec. 8th, 2012 04:43 am (UTC)
I have experience from the child's side of things - I went to Catholic school for K-3 and 6-7th. The school I attended did require weekly or monthly mass (depending on the grade) and there was a religion class. At the Kindergarten level I remember being taught principles like 'treat others the way you want to be treated' and 'don't steal' and 'love thy neighbor'. I do vaguely remember attending mass, but at that age I was more interested by the structure of the chapel and the music. The sermons I remember always seemed more positive and talked about similar principles. When I hit 1st grade we did start having some more structure religious education, but it was more about learning the stories of the bible and the simpler concepts rather than things like gays are wrong. I think the only concept I had problems with was when my teacher told me that my dog wouldn't go to heaven - I argued a bit and then just made up my mind that she must be nuts because I couldn't imagine 'God' not letting me see my dog again. There was heavier education when I hit 2nd grade, since that's when kids are required to do communion and I don't know that it's optional. At that point you may be able to explore other options.

I honestly never remember hearing about gay people or divorce being evil. I grew up with 'uncles' who were gay and never thought anything about it. I don't know if it's changed or not, but I definitely don't think attending a Catholic school for a few years fostered any intolerance. If anything it'll open up some interesting dialogues with your son and give you some good opportunities to discuss how and why your beliefs differ.

Would you consider seeing if you could shadow in the class he'd be attending and maybe attend one of the masses he'd be expected to go to? It might give you a better idea of what type of messages he'd be receiving in the time he'd be there.

I'm just trying to give an alternate view - I completely understand your reasoning. We're in a similar situation in that the best schools near us are all religious and I don't want my son exposed to an environment that's going to foster intolerance. It's definitely a hard decision.
Dec. 8th, 2012 04:46 am (UTC)
I went to Catholic School for 12 years and I never was taught any of those things you mentioned. I am not saying the church doesn't think those things I am not doing into that debate but I am just saying not once in my 12 years did I hear it. If they say it now I would think they would not say that to 3 and 4 year olds.

My daughter goes to a Methodist preschool because her birthday missed the cutoff for the Catholic School one all they talk to them about( and it isn't really teaching just talking) is Jesus and the basics. They do say a prayer thanking god for their lunch food everyday. I do not think they teach religion to 3 and 4 year olds yet. Just my opinion.
Dec. 8th, 2012 04:50 am (UTC)
And let me add I do not agree with any of those things either it is really a tough time.
Dec. 8th, 2012 05:11 am (UTC)
Go to the local catholic school and ask about their religious curriculum for kids in that age range. It might be something you can live with. No use making decisions without all the facts, right?
Dec. 8th, 2012 08:38 am (UTC)
I agree. My kids are in Catholic school - I am Catholic - and while the curriculum certainly emphasises the (believed) existence of God, in early years it is really more about the 'good' parts of religion like love, forgiveness, treating others as you would like to be treated. I do understand that it can still be offensive/objectionable to some people, but definitely check out the school first if you can.

Despite raising my kids Catholic, my 4 year old in particular questions what she learns a lot. She's just finished pre-kindy and her questions about religion are great: "but how can God be right beside me? I can't see him!" and the teachers have no problem answering this in an appropriate manner.
Dec. 8th, 2012 01:04 pm (UTC)
agree- yes, the curriculum was really more about 'how can we help others?" and doing the right thing...
Dec. 8th, 2012 11:52 am (UTC)
Aside from Religious Ed and services, half the time I forgot I was at a Catholic school. I went K-5 and then 9-12 to Catholic (6-8 was a non denominational christian school).

My best advice would be to put him in, if there aren't any other options and then supplement at home with books about other religions to give him a world view. My high school was really good at that, but it honestly didn't influence me in any way.
Dec. 8th, 2012 12:52 pm (UTC)
Not in quite the same situation but we are jewish and live in Englad where Christianity is the state religion and taught in state schools.

The way I've handled this is talking to the teacher about my beliefs and she's run religious activists by me.

I'd check the schools code. Does it require children to be catholic to attend? If not, discuss the issue with teachers.

Dec. 8th, 2012 01:02 pm (UTC)
my daughter went to a Catholic nursery school (at 3 and turning 4) full day ...it was very affordable at about $400 a month...I wouldn't worry too much about him learning anything hardcore at that age...they did do prayers with the kids- and did fun things- like breakfast with Santa, pictures with the Easter Bunny, maybe little stories about Jesus helping people...there was naptime, snack time, playtime, and they did a good amount of learning letters, shapes, colors, numbers (it is school after all) she liked it there, the school was really a nice community of people (closer and friendlier than they were at her public school)
for the record, they never said things about gay people, divorce, going to hell, etc.
my son currently goes to a great private (non-religious) school and they cost twice as much (at 3 years old) if I had the option of sending him to a Catholic school for half the price- I would've taken it
Dec. 8th, 2012 01:05 pm (UTC)
Since you say you went to Catholic schools, I am hoping that you are just being flip with your assessment of Church teaching. God doesn't hate gay people or divorced people or single mothers, nor does the Church teach that. Church teaching is that we are all sinners and are all loved and created by God. Further, saying a few prayers isn't enough. The charge is to "go forth and sin no more". A relationship with God is supposed to help that.

Now, I say this, knowing that I live in a very conservative diocese where the Bishop required all the priests to read a letter that distilled down said "vote Romney". Just because some idiot, be he priest or whomever, said it, doesn't make it proper teaching or right.

I doubt there will be any discussion of hot button social issues for young kids. They will definitely be taught to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and shelter the homeless. Those are the core social teachings. You might get some awkwardness around abortion.

Yes, I think you are going to have challenges with the Catholic school, but I think it will be on the teaching about God and Jesus, not really on the moral teachings.
Dec. 8th, 2012 04:26 pm (UTC)
This! I know it is a different time but I went to 12 years of Catholic School. It was a long time ago but even in high school I do not remember that much decision of hot button issues. I think the only two were to not have sex before marriage and that abortion was bad. The rest of the things she mentioned was never discussed and certainly wouldn't be with 3 and 4 year olds.

And while the might not be so hot on the sex before marriage my sister had a daughter at 23 not married. My niece was baptized in the church and went to 12 years of Catholic also. They do not hate single mothers or divorced people.
Dec. 8th, 2012 02:38 pm (UTC)
I am atheist and my kids go to a CofE school. Attendance at religious services is not required, however. If it had been I would not have sent them there. I do not mind an xtian ethos, I would not accept enforced participation in religious practices.
Dec. 8th, 2012 02:48 pm (UTC)
Some daycares are education based,and you could also google nursery schools.

As for Catholic schools, I'd interview them. I'd imagine some are more love-based and probably they don't all teach that gay people, divorced people, etc are are bad...
Dec. 8th, 2012 03:26 pm (UTC)
Not sure of the religious schools, but is there a university or community college in your area? My son went to a 3k-4k school that was a lab school in a university. There was a main teacher, but other teachers who were students of the college, who were learning the best way to teach the children. It was fantastic, cause they implemented every way they could to teach the children. These schools are usually great for your kids, because they strive at keeping up with the new technology and ideas for helping the children (and the university students) learn.

The downside is that there is usually a waiting list for these schools.
Dec. 8th, 2012 05:29 pm (UTC)
I attended a catholic school for elementary and middle school, and I have to echo the sentiments that those hot button issues are really not applicable at the preschool levels. It wasn't until the very end, eighth grade, that they even touched upon sanctity of life/abortion issues. I don't recall the others being covered, ever. What I do recall, however is that it was a superior education compared to my peers in public schools - smaller classes, earlier introduction to second language, more involved teachers and parents. I know everyone's experiences are different, but wherever they stand on life choices, it is not my experience that catholic schools teach hate.

I would ask specifically about the religious curriculum. If anything, it can be a lesson in tolerance for your children - how to be in the presence of religion but not a believer, how to respectfully not participate, things like that. We were not catholic and one of the hard lines my parents took was that we do not believe in Mary's divinity and we do not pray to Mary - and I spent my catholic school years standing quietly and respectfully during morning Hail Mary prayers. Understanding our reasons, no teacher ever had a problem with respectful non participation. </p>

It is likely the religious teaching at that level will be very charitable and general. Love others. Show charity. Obey your parents. Give to the poor. Things like that. If the education in your area is really superior at that school, I would be frank with the administration (frank, but not accusatory) and see if you can make it work.

Dec. 8th, 2012 06:19 pm (UTC)
I went to Catholic school right up from k through 12, and the big time religious stuff didn't start until at least 4th grade. Then again, it was all Sisters of St. Joseph run and they're Catholic-lite as far as doctrine goes, so perhaps my experience was unusual. That said, we're atheist/agnostic and I wouldn't hesitate sending my son to a religious school if it was the best in the area that I could afford.
Dec. 10th, 2012 08:50 pm (UTC)
.... you have a very skewed sense of Catholic social teaching. 12 years of Catholic school here too, and I never once heard about people who were "bad". There were kids at school with me who had divorced parents, single parents, etc. etc..
( 31 comments — Leave a comment )


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