While the majority of students enrolled in Catholic schools are Catholic, enrollment of non-Catholic students is on the rise and currently makes up 16.9% of the student body at Catholic schools. Non-Catholic parents select Catholic private schools for a variety of reasons, including better achievement results, smaller class sizes, and a curriculum that is more aligned with their morals than the curriculum at public schools or other private options. If you are considering enrolling your child in a Catholic school, you should be prepared to address the following five issues.
Services and Communion
Most Catholic schools hold mandatory religious services and communion once a week, while some schools offer them once a month. Your child will be expected to attend religious services with their class, but they will not be allowed to participate when communion is given during the service. While they will stand, kneel, and sit throughout the liturgy, when their classmates go forward for communion, your child will be asked to remain seated.
Some children, especially those who transfer to Catholic school after primary school, may find the religious service and communion awkward at first. However, as they learn more about the meaning behind the liturgy and what is expected of them, they should feel more comfortable. You can help them by educating yourself about Catholic practices and being able to answer questions they might have.
Similar to religious services, your child will be expected to participate in daily prayers. Prayers are usually said at the beginning of the school day, before lunch, and at the end of the school day. While private institutions in the United States have the right to require participation in religious acts, many schools strive to make their non-Catholic students feel welcome, and some schools may allow your child to silently bow their head during prayer as opposed to reciting the prayers.
It is important for you to talk to your child about the purpose of prayer and their feelings about it before they attend classes. If your child wants to opt out of prayer, make sure you discuss this with their teacher before they begin classes.
Sex Education Based on Abstinence and Chastity
The Catholic church believes that sex education should be between parents and their children and should be based on abstinence and chastity. If your child's Catholic school has a sex education program, it will likely be what is known as a family-life program, and will focus on physical anatomy and proper relationships between men and women as laid out through Catholicism.
If you choose to supplement your child's sexual education at home, you should also inform your child of the Catholic views on sexuality and let them know what is and is not proper to discuss with their classmates.
A Strict Dress Code or Uniform
If your child is transferring from a public school, they may not be used to a strict dress code or a mandatory uniform. It is important that you purchase either a uniform or modest attire for their time at school. You may also want to have a discussion with them about self-expression through clothing, why your school requires uniforms, and other ways that they can express themselves, such as participating on class discussions or joining school clubs.
Classmates Who Know Each Other Well
If your child's school is small, it will be likely that all of their classmates have been in the same class as one another for years, which can create a tight bond that is difficult for new arrivals to penetrate. While the faculty may help make your child feel welcome, it may take a few weeks before they begin to feel like they belong at their new school, and you should prepare for this adjustment period.
Catholic schools offer many benefits to Catholic and non-Catholic students. However, if your child is transferring from a public school, you should prepare for a period of adjustment as they get used to the methods and standards associated with a Catholic education.