Non-Religious Families at Religious Schools

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Non-Christians considering Catholic School

Jan 1999

My husband and I are non-Christians who are contemplating sending our child to Catholic/parochial elementary school. Our child knows nothing about Christianity (at least from us). Are there any non-Christian parents out there (or Christian or Catholic parents, for that matter) who have sent children to parochial schools, who might have an opinion about:

1) whether my child might be made to feel uncomfortable/less valuable (by other children, or by teachers or staff) for not being Christian, let alone Catholic? Are non-Christian children expected to participate in prayers, etc. as part of the school day, or are they excused? (For that matter, does a 5-yr-old non-Christian child even know what prayer is about?)

2) whether my husband and I might be discouraged by other parents (or by teachers or staff) from participation in the life of the school for not being Christian, let alone Catholic?

As you can see, I need some advice!

Thank you.

School of the Madeleine has religious instruction from Kindergarten on up. Some Kindergarten parents last year (from what I heard) felt it was too much dogma and sent their kids elsewhere for 1st grade. There is a prayer assembly every morning, and religious references throughout the day, not to mention the religious instruction...As a fairly new Catholic, I was surprised at the level of religious teachings in Kindergarten.

March 1998

I am fairly agnostic (with a Christian background) and my husband is fairly agnostic (with a Muslim background); our daughter has attended St. Jerome's for the past 2 years.

There are a surprising number of non-Catholics and non-Christians there, and I think that the teachers there are fairly used to this. I have never felt that there was stigma attached to this, but they do tend to express things in Christian terms, things that my daughter calls "important stuff" because that is probably what her teacher says to get them to sit still and pay attention. Sometimes she complains that there is "too much important stuff in this school, Mom" but I'm not quite sure if this is because she is feeling excluded or because she just finds it boring, since it's never discussed that way at home. They don't seem to be fundamentalists as far as curriculum.

What's really nice about the school is that the students take care of each daughter is never intimidated by the older children (they have mixed after school care from K through 8th grade and they all sit down and work on homework and do art projects together). Kids form strong friendships (which are aided if they all attend church functions together, but certainly are formed with non-church goers as well) and people make a point of greeting you on the stairs, etc. Maybe this friendliness is true of all private schools; my experience with public schools was a long time ago with a much older child.

You do have to be respectful of actively religious people, because that is the reference that the teachers and staff have there for life. I tell my daughter that the "important" things are very important to her teacher and should be respected, even though they do not pertain to what we do as a family. Liz

August 1998

I read the postings on the web page associated with Catholic School and I must disagree with the note about religious teachings in Kindergarten. Although I was raised Catholic I am not deeply religious and refer to myself as "A Questioner" ( I am a scientist by training). I found the Kindergarten to be delightful and most of the religious training focuses on kindness, manners and respect for others. I can't see fault in that. I think any school could benefit in focusing on these issues and that is basically why I chose Catholic school. There is real community feel at the school as people share more than just the school as common denominator. The class size is an issue but the children divide up for key lessons and there will only be 12-15 in the class. Andrea