I have found it fascinating how many atheists that I know who send thier kids to private religious schools. I would love to have a discussion on how we, as atheists, make educational decisions for our children. As a mother of a toddler, these decisions seem very far off, but I know they will be sneaking up on me soon! Some things I am curious about: Why did you choose a specific school for your child? If you homeschool, what is the reasoning behind your choice? How did those of you who chose religious schools for your children decide a religious school was the better choice than public school? I am also interested in those from places other than the US and how educational choices for your children compare to the choices we have in the US.

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Hi Beckster,

I grew up in Germany, where religious education was as much a part of school as Maths and Science. There were two groups, Catholic and Evangelical (although the Evangelicals in Germany are much less conservative than the Catholics... or the Evangelicals here in the US). I took RE for 10 years, and therefore know a thing or two about the Bible and the Christian god etc. Today families get to choose whether they want to send their kids into RE classes. There is an alternative for non-believers, called Ethics.

We homeschool our children, but religion did not play a role in that decision. It was mainly the fact, that public schools in Arizona generally sucked. ;) (No pun intended) Homeschooling has been the best decision we could make. My kids will learn, in due time, about different world religions. And my daughter, in particular, has learned some already.
"Today families get to choose whether they want to send their kids into RE classes. There is an alternative for non-believers, called Ethics."

So... kids in Germany get to learn religion or ethics. Wish US could make that distinction, including a certain president elect.
My kids go to a Catholic school. There wasn't much of a choice really. I grew up in this area of Chicago and went to Catholic schools all my life including an all-girl high school that I chose to go to despite not believing most of what they taught me. When my oldest started kindergarten we happened to move to a new state and she went to public school for 2 years (it was an awesome school and I was sad to leave).

Because of money issues we moved back with my dad and tried to enroll our two oldest kids in the local PS which is just around the corner from our house. It isn't the greatest school but it's public and, therefore, free, you know. It's so overcrowded that 3 years ago it went to a year-round schedule with 4 different tracts of kids so 1/4 of the kids are usually on some kind of break at any given time.

But we were told there was no room for our now 2nd grader and they would bus her to a different school but would gladly take our kindergarten son. That didn't work for us. There was no way I was sending my 7yo to school somewhere else when I have no way to get to the school if something happens to her and where she would probably be on a different schedule then her brother. It was insane.

I wasn't sure what we were going to do. I was separated from my husband and unemployed (I'm a SAHM) and was just lost. While out looking for work my dad walked over the local Catholic school and signed the kids up, picking up the tab (which is over $8500 this year for 3 kids). My husband and I are back together but could never afford the tuition without my dad.

Basically, it is a quality issue. The biggest class in the school is my daughter's 3rd grade class which has 29 students. My 1st grader and kindergartener both have 22 students in the class (and my kindy kid has 2 teachers). At the PS there would have been, on average, 27-34 kids per class with 3-4 classrooms of every grade. Our school has 1 class per grade, preschool (which is for 3 and 4 year olds)-8th. I also like that the principal, because of the small size, pretty much knows every student on a first name basis and most of the teachers know all the kids, even ones not in their grade. Heck, the kids all know each other. My 1st grader can tell you who the siblings are of most of the kids in my 3rd grader's class even though none of them are in his grade, lol.

On the flip side we have to deal with all the religious stuff. They get religion class every day and a lot of their other lessons are filled with Jesus stuff (like art, music, etc). My 3rd grader goes to Mass every Friday (they are prepping for First Reconciliation and then later this school year they will do First Communion although my daughter isn't participating). The younger kids go once a month usually.

They are graded on prayer retention so I have to help them memorize prayers and other religious stuff that I care little about. Now I know how my dad, who is agnostic, felt all those years me and my brother were in school.

It's a struggle to balance it all out but my dad gave me some good advice. He said he went through the same thing and I turned out just fine (meaning I no longer believe the stuff I was taught). Although I was never baptized I consider my self 2nd generation ex-Catholic, lol (my father also did the Catholic schooling from 1st-12th).
I am not sure how I will go about it. I'm a single mother, so homeschooling is out the window. That would be my first choice. I think I will be sending my son to the public school system, the one around here is pretty decent. You get a lot of snotty, nose-in-the-air people but I can handle them. My son getting a good education is what concerns me.
I want my daughter to learn and play with a diverse bunch of kids, and I think that public schools are the best way to do that.

I get a kick out of the Summerville approach and wish that our public schools modeled the inclusive, egalitarian, responsible, democratic society we'd like to have. Skepticism, creative problem solving, and cooperation are not the priorities that I'd like them to be, but I doubt that religious school teachers are less authoritarian, that religious instruction is less dogmatic/trivial and more practical than their counterparts in our public schools.

As much as I'd like to protect my daughter from bigotry and superstition, she's got to learn to deal with it. I think it's also important for her to learn that most religious people are not as bigoted and superstitious as their religion. Mr. Rogers may have been a Christian pastor, for ex., but his TV message was one of secular humanism.
My kids (16 & 12) have attended public schools since kindergarten. We have great public schools here, so your location makes a huge difference. Here's why we chose public. 1) Lethargy - come on it's the easiest, cheapest, the default choice. 2) I had a great education in public schools. 3) My husband went to wacky religious schools and got a lame education. 4) There's no way in h*** either of us could homeschool these two. 5) Our experience is that our public school teachers and administrations are by and large marvelously secular, progressive and skilled.

That's my input.
I feel public school is the way to go. Kids need examples. I use the actions they see to my advantage every day. Little buck ass wild kids in school, I tell my lilins they are special and not to act like the crowd, show the crowd how to be.... What you teach them at home is what makes your kids. Your job is to prepare them for the outside world. I feel if you home school, unless you socialize them, you really gotta watch the isolation. Home school offers a damn good education if you are thorough about it.

Ha sending my children to ps in the middle of the bible belt is a challenge. Mine always knew their wasn't a Santa. I guess thas what started it all.You'd be surprised at the maturity boost it gives a kid to let them in on stuff like that. And now we are all in on another big secrete. I am dealing with atheist ism the same way as Santa, I tell my kids I dont lie to them, the other kids do not know and its not our place to tell them because they would get really up set. Thas not verbatim but simmular to the conversations we have. I have never told my kids there is no "God" I give them the choice. I also tell them if they are gonna say they are atheist they better have a well researched and thought out argument be cause they will have to back it up.
I have my son in a Catholic school, even though he and I are "tribally" Jewish, though completely non-practicing. He is there because I put him in the public school and it sucked (very archaic discipline methodologies). Then I tried the most supposedly progressive school available: Waldorf. Not good, either. So the nearby Catholic school was the best choice, and believe it or not, it is much better for my son. I discuss the God/Jesus issue with my son very openly. He knows we are basically formulating our own beliefs in the world as we go along, and that the Catholic stuff he is being fed at school is just information, but not necessarily anything he has to believe. The school does not push faith in its faith, really ( or at least it doesn't seem to). The school has kids going there from many religions, including Muslim.
I am ethnically Jewish but not raised religiously (although my brother and father became hasidic after I went to college) and my wife was raised in Finland, where the state religion is Lutheran (but they also have an "ethics" option--my wife didn't take that one). We are both very concerned about our kids, 3 y.o. and 1 y.o., being "brainwashed" by religion, but our friends who are atheists assure us that home values trump values encountered outside. A couple of them have sent kids to religious schools (Catholic or Jewish) and all of them "turned out fine". So I guess I shouldn't worry. I'm also a big believer in the public schools (where they are decent), so if our public schools are decent enough, the kids will go there. If not, they also have Finnish citizenship....




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