It is certainly possible to make faith a central part of the family life while sending your kids to public school. My parents are good Catholics and raised us (seven of us) to be good Catholics as well. We went to Sunday Mass, were encouraged to go to daily Mass over the summer, ate dinner together and always prayed grace, always said prayers as a family before going to bed at night. Our parish had a Catholic grade school, so in addition to our life at home, we all had a solid Catholic upbringing in grades K-5.
Once we left 5th grade, of course we went to PSR/CCD and every so often would get involved in youth group events, although there wasn’t a very established youth group at that time. The boys in our family continued to be altar servers through high school as well.
Now, this is just my experience, having gone through public schools with faithful Catholic parents, and I understand many others could have a different experience. So, it really depends on certain factors, I guess, but I experienced it as Kelfa put it - it is a dangerous prospect to put kids in public school. I was given enough grace to never fall away from the faith - in fact, I never even came close. It’s just that influence from public school students really affected my attitude at home; looking back, I’d say it obviously negatively influenced my attitude. I always knew that the Catholic Church is “right” and that what I had been taught about morals and everything was good and all that, but I think going to public schools made it that much harder to accept, because I just wanted to fit in. Not blaming my parents or anything…that’s just the way it was for me. I wanted everything the public school kids had and was fed up that my parents didn’t have TV or Internet at home…little things like that just made me an unpleasant kid at home. I know it is a common thing, especially these days, for kids/teenagers especially to have respect issues with their parents at times, but I look back and realize I could be pretty bad at times, and thank goodness for my upbringing - that probably kept me from going off the edge.
So the way I see it, despite my experiences, I think sending kids to public schools while making Catholic faith the center of our lives can work, but a parent must be prepared for the influence the public school kids will have on their children. I’m not saying all public school kids are bad…because I know they’re not. But most kids just really want to fit in, and that will motivate many of their thoughts and actions. I also realize that there may be positives in kids going to public schools, which have been mentioned in this thread already.
Again, I’m not trying to blame my parents here…but there are a couple things that, looking back, I wish had been done differently. 1) This is actually pretty big - I wish us kids had been given the “sex talk”. I don’t remember hearing one word from my parents on the topic at an early age, despite having five older siblings. I learned about it from my older brother when I was in 4th grade, still at the Catholic grade school, while my older brother was in 8th grade - looking back, he must have just been learning about it at public school and had obviously not been told anything by mom & dad. I look back at my life to this point (I am only 23) and consider that a very “important” point in my life - when my innocence was destroyed, and in not a very good way either. I ended up not learning anything about the topic until 7th grade or something in science (and of course by then I already knew because of what my brother had told me), and in high school PSR was probably the first time I was ever given church teachings on the matter.
- Well, my parents couldn’t have really done anything differently here - this is just how things were - to replace the influence of the public schools, there just has to be some other “group” of kids for Catholic kids to be around. If the only influence is from the public schools, then obviously they’ll be swayed by them the most, whether they actually “fall away” or not. There must be connection with the other Catholic kids in the area. I guess that really comes down to having a solid youth group. In my case that couldn’t have really been fixed, because there weren’t a lot of “devout” parents as far as I could tell compared to my parents at least, so even within the Catholic community there weren’t many (if any) “like-minded” kids around me once we left for public schools. Again, I don’t mean to bash all public school kids - I know there are some good ones and I know some are fine to hang out with. Just in general, in order to at least minimize the influence public schools can have on a child, there really needs to be a strong Catholic youth group or something similar. In my case, my parents had many family friends, but all of their kids were older than me, and most of them were even older than my older siblings.
Sorry, I think I’ve just been rambling now…so I’m done. I guess I turned out all right - better than some at least. Those are just my thoughts/experiences. Summary - it’s possible, but unless certain circumstances were present, I’d not put my own kids in public school.