Catholic families with kids in public schools

Hi there— I am not Catholic, but I also practice a liturgical faith (Anglican) and try to observe the feast days,special church occasions and the liturgical year in my home. A lot of the resources I use for ideas for my family tend to be Roman Catholic. However, I’m seeing a trend where many of the families who practice these similar things in their homes, especially on blogs, also home school.
That is not something that is possible for me and my family right now, and I imagine its not possible for other Catholic families. I was just curious to chat with families who DO have children in public school and how they still maintain a good spiritual practice within their home, and perhaps some benefits they might see from having their children in public education.

I am not wanting to stir up any homeschool vs. public school debate, rather I’m just looking for some suggestions and stories from families in a similar situation as ours. Thanks so much! :slight_smile:

My five kids all attend public schools but we ALWAYS put church first, followed by family, then my husbands job and lastly school. If a holy day falls on a school day, we attend Mass first then go to school late. The schools always excuse the tardy and when people ask why they are late the kids use it as a time to educate kids about our religion.
It works well for us.

Yep, same - same. I seriously doubt at I’m as good about remembering it as hally23 but my kids schools always excuse it as long as we can tell them there is any type of educational value. So they are being educated and practicing their faith in God…

Well, first of all, it is a remarkable opportunity for evangelization and firm Christian witness. I encourage you to actually have your kids stay home for holy days of obligation, attend Mass together (because, after all, you’re not prevented from attending Mass simply because you’re an Anglican), and make a special dinner to observe the day. The attitude of your children must begin every single morning with the realization that the most important thing that they’ll do that day is not to learn math or science or make friends or hang out or whatever. The most important thing they’ll do is sanctify themselves through their study and sanctify their school(s) through their personal apostolate and holiness. They are quite literally on the mission field.

Thank you all! These are great points! And good suggestions too. Actually, since we moved 30 minutes away from the church where we are members, I’ve considered going to the Catholic Church not far from where we are now on special occasions or weekday mass but wasn’t sure if it would awkward since I’m not baptized as Catholic. (I wouldnt be able to have communion is mostly what I’m thinking of, and I tend to be a little bashful, so I wouldnt want to stick out too badly) Perhaps I’ll give it a try though, broaden our horizons and perhaps make some local friends :slight_smile:

Have sent six to public schools. One benefit we have experienced is the exposure to other religions and cultures. My oldest sat a lunch table in high school with a group that included a Muslim, a homosexual boy, two atheists, a Jehovah witness, and a couple mainstream Christians - all good friends who had some very interesting discussions. Topics would be brought up and she’d come home and basically say - okay, we believe “X”, I know that - but why??? And the Catholic Church is very, very good at the “why”, I have learned.

It was (and is) challenging - but I think both our children and my husband and I have grown a great deal in our faith because we’ve had to fully understand the ‘why’ so we could then support our faith’s teachings when debated with others.

I also feel it is very important for us to learn to live in the world as it is. Thus, as much as I would like to skip or postpone difficult topics (from foul language to handling boy-girl relationships), my kids get exposed to these and I need to prepare them for how to handle the situations as they develop.

It’s interesting though - friends who have had their kids solely in Catholic schools often seem to think that public schools (and those who attend them) are completely lacking in good morals. On the contrary, I’ve found quite a few parents who send their children to public school but insist on proper manners, proper language, proper behavior, and share our same values on things like dating and sexuality. This provides a large pool of kids so that while my child may not have been allowed to see a certain movie, etc - they are never the only ones (and thus not singled out). And again - it provides a basis for later explanations of shared and different teachings and the reasons behind them.

It depends on the public schools.

In our city, a deseg lawsuit in the 1990s destroyed the public schools. The courts assigned a “master” to take over our schools, and he wreaked havoc in the name of “desegregation.”

Just to give you an example–before the lawsuit, all the public middle schools and high schools had orchestras and bands, along with choral music. Now there are no orchestras in any of the public schools (including the “gifted” school), there are bands only in the high schools but not in all of the middle schools (so if you want to play a band instrument in middle school to get ready for high school, you take private lessons), and kids in the elementary schools get one half hour of chorus per week, and the few music teachers travels from school to school (no base school). Oh, in many of the schools, “chorus” consists of dancing to hip hop music, since any other kind of music is “eurocentric” and therefore, intolerant of different races.


As a result of insane policies like this, most of the public schools in our area have been completely drained of any “good” families, and I’m not just talking about Christians! The Muslims started their own private school, and it is full of great families and kids! We have thousands of school children of all ages who are being homeschooled in our city. And all the private schools have waiting lists.

Because of the drain of “good families,” the “gangs” out of Chicago have pretty much taken over, and many of the public schools in our area are recruiting fields for new gang members. Those who don’t join the gangs are victimized by them.

And as if all this isn’t bad enough, the teachers’ union has such a tight stranglehold on our city that nothing gets done unless they approve it. Teachers are paid well in our city–a new teachers starts at around $50,000.00/year–nice pay.

My children attended a private secular prep school, so they got to experience many different cultures and religions. It was a great school. I think that Christian chidlren can do well in secular settings if they are safe. But if they aren’t safe…well, I don’t want to make my kids martyrs.

So I would never dream of putting a child into public schools in our city.

There are many Catholics who cannot get a day off from work when the feast day is not a bank holiday, too. For that reason, most parishes have evening Masses in observation of Holy Days of obligation, or are situated near a parish offers one. The students attending public school normally go to those Masses, whereas the students in Catholic schools often have a school-wide Mass for the student body on those days.

Our parish as 8:00 am. And 12:15 mass on holy days. No evening. Kids start school at 7:25.
Public school excuses all religious activities. We even have school closed for two Jewish holidays!

Yes, public schools ought to consider religious observance an excused absence, although they each have a policy (such as requiring advance notice of the student’s absence). In our area, where evening Masses are plentiful, even then the school would release a student for whatever religious observance the parent deems to be required, no questions asked. They would usually not presume to argue with the parents about whether they couldn’t choose a different Mass time!

I converted as an adult, but I attended public school K-12 and my husband and I currently intend on our children attending our local public schools. He attended Catholic schools K-12.

Looking back on my education, there are only a couple of things that I know I would have to address that would (presumably) not come up in a Catholic school, and most of those would not apply until high school level. Religious observance would not have been an issue. Our school calendar already took into account major Christian (and Jewish) holy days, and I remember several Muslims who left school early every Friday to attend their weekly worship services.

One of my concerns is about clothing (some public schools have uniforms but not many, though most do have dress codes with varying levels of enforcement), but who knows what the fashions will be by the time my kids are in school, much less high school, and they will encounter other children in street clothes before then anyway. So I’ll take that as it comes.

The big concern I have about public school as opposed to other types of schooling are social studies and literature curricula. I attended excellent public schools, but the social studies still suffered a bit from the easy “Catholics were bad until Martin Luther came along and told them what’s what” version of history that pretty much defines the typical American understanding of Catholicism, and there were several books that we read in English class that I really don’t think were appropriate for high school level (and a few were even trash). Even that, however, could be easily handled: a Catholic friend of mine was able to read alternative books and she didn’t think it made her teachers like her any less or treat her differently. She was a stellar student.

I think in a good school district many of the negatives of public school can be minimized. I was grateful that I got to get to know a lot of different kinds of kids from a lot of backgrounds. There were lots of extracurriculars and since school was pretty much my only social life, I was really grateful for the clubs and activities. In districts where safety and security are the first priority instead of education, or there’s not much money, there’s not going to be a lot of that. I’ve taught in districts like the ones Cat mentioned. I don’t know what the solution is to fix those schools, if they can be fixed, but I would avoid if at all possible. But those experiences do not define public school.

Some public schools are outstanding. I was fortunate enough to be raised in an area that happened to have very good public schools.
I was given a good education and probably wouldn’t hesitate to put my children in these schools if they were the same as when I attended.

The problems I’ve encountered stem from a government view on what my children should be learning.
The state I live in is absolutely notorious for teaching children immoral values and seems to be ground zero for progressive movements and doctrine.

That and the simple fact that my family lives in an area where the public school system just isn’t that good.
But, we’re lucky to have several Parish schools to pick from at a short distance from the house and a couple of high schools that are just as close. The tuition is manageable.

Personally, I think that public schools can be a dangerous prospect for children who are in households that try to hold up religious values and make their faith a central part of their lives.
I see the value in public schools. Public schools can have great resources for disabled students or students with learning disabilities…better resources then a lot of small private schools.

There will always be a good public school in any neighborhood but it may not be easy to find. It is an initial investment that takes lots of time but can be a rewarding experience both for the parent and child once it is eventually found. Parents can put the extra funds in to purchasing supplies and school uniforms. Children will also benefit from the increased diversity public schools have to offer.


DSD attends a public school as there are no Catholic schools close by. (We live in a rural community. She lives with us half-time and her mom half-time so moving is currently not an option.) Her school provides one period a week of religious education taught by volunteer teachers from the community. (Those children who choose not to participate in religious education attend the Safe and Caring Schools and Communities program, a character-education program that is non-religious.) I also teach her catechism at home.

In our area, all holy days of obligation are transferred to Sunday (except Christmas and New Year’s Day) so we don’t need to worry about her missing school. If this were not the case, we DO have the option of going to evening Mass in nearby communities during the week.

I agree with Kelfa. I am in the same state as Kelfa so I think that here trying to make your faith central to your kids and sending them to public schools is problematic the least. My daughter started in public school (the area where I live has really good public schools) but what they were teaching was really bad and I did not agree with school policies so o took her out and put it in private school. Also our tuition is manageable. Also we needed a before and after school program and at the public school they were charging me an arm and a leg. What I pay now in tuition at catholic school including after school program is less than what I was paying at the public school for before and after school.

I think where you live has a lot to do with the answer but there are certain places like where Kelfa and I are (and Cat as she mentions) where sending kids to public school may be in big conflict with their faith.

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.

  1. 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.

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