Finding the Right Christian School
Is the decision to move your child to a Christian school weighing heavily upon you? Perhaps you never thought you would ever opt out of public education. But now that's exactly what you intend to do.
The reasons may be many. You may be looking for higher academic standards, or a safer environment. Perhaps you are tired of fighting the tide of a liberal mindset that stands in opposition to what you are teaching your kids at home. Whatever your reason may be, switching to a private Christian education is a big step.
Why Choose a Christian School?
Depending on where you live, public schools have been experiencing low graduation rates, a decline in standardized test scores and, worse yet, a rise in crime taking place right on the school grounds. Not a pretty picture for the children you love.
Think about your child's education this way: Your child is a beautiful flower. Would you deliberately take a beautiful flower and plant it in hard, dry ground with little or no access to proper water, sunlight or nutrients? Of course not. You'd find rich soil where other beautiful flowers are planted and a gardener is there to tend it with care.
Pick the atmosphere where your child will receive all that they need to thrive and grow spiritually, academically and socially.
Are Christian Schools really better?
Academics: while many public schools are struggling to keep their heads above water with low standardized test scores and dismal graduation rates, private Christian schools fare well. Approximately 65-67% of high school students attending public schools graduate and go on to college. 97-99% of those attending Christian schools graduate and matriculate to higher education.
Why is that? Smaller student-to-teacher ratios and a more peaceful school atmosphere are two big contributing factors. Add to that the reinforcement of clear family-based values and children will thrive.
Curriculum Content: public schools are required to follow standards that may include content that contradicts the values that parents are trying to instill in their children at home. Public schools are prohibited by law from teaching religious doctrine. Interestingly, they do often teach beliefs that are diametrically opposed to Christian principles.
A quality Christian school, and there are many, will meet the state academic requirements, or exceed them, while maintaining a high moral standard keeping with family values and Biblical beliefs. Christian parents find this to be the best of both worlds.
Spiritual Input: Students attending Christian schools receive rich Bible-based content throughout the school day. They are not only allowed to pray but are encouraged to make prayer a way of life. It is not uncommon for students to pray for one another or for the teacher to pray for them, at a time of need, without fear of reprisal or negative peer pressure.
Extracurricular Activities: Many Christian schools have good athletic programs that include competitive sports. In addition to sports, they offer after school clubs and programs in music, the arts, technology, yearbook and a variety of opportunities outside the classroom.
Clothes: Having a specified school uniform is a policy is often preferred and appreciated by parents. In fact, it can be a relief! Why?
- Wardrobe decisions by parent or child are taken out of the equation. The uniform is the uniform, end of story.
- Modesty prevails. Again, since there are few options when it comes to a school uniform, the current fads won't be showing up in the classroom. If they do, the administration will quickly correct the issue. The child dresses appropriately and the battle is removed from the homefront.
Safety: Many students attending public schools, especially those located in or around urban areas, are afraid to go to school. Classroom violence and bullying are prevalent. Though kids will be kids wherever they go to school, the atmosphere in a Christian school tends to be safe, more peaceful and more accepting.
Small Classrooms: many public schools have classroom populations of 25 or more students to just one instructor. Christian schools often have much smaller ratios, thus giving the child more personal attention from the teacher.
Dedicated Professionals: while all schools have highly trained and dedicated teachers and administrators, Christian school staffs are dominated by professionals of that caliber.
Christian teachers have motives that go beyond career alone.Certainly they're not in it for the money! Most Christian schools are budgetarily challenged. There is little in the way of government funding to help them and they must depend upon tuition, grants, fundraising and donations to keep them going. Most cannot afford to pay teachers salaries comparable to the public schools. And perks, like retirement plans, are almost unheard of.
No, Christian teachers are definitely there for a much higher reason. Teaching is their passion--their God-given calling. The added benefit is, by teaching in a Christian school, they can freely teach about Jesus and pray with their students.
Financial: Now, this may be the scary part. The question is: how do you pay for it?
Public schools are cheaper. There is no doubt about it. They're free!
Tuition rates at Christian schools vary from region to region. The national average is approximately $6,600.00 per year. Don't let that discourage you, however. Private schools are seeking enrollment and they often offer discounts, scholarships or financial aid to make it more affordable for families. Some schools will even allow parents to exchange their time volunteering in the school in return for some or all of the tuition. Make an appointment to meet with the principal and ask. There may be something they can do.
Location & Transportation: Public school enrollment is determined by where you live. Though there may be busing programs or charter schools that parents can opt for, the number of children who qualify for them are few compared to the number of families who wish their children didn't have to go to that school.
Shopping for a Christian school leaves the location decision in the parents' hands. Even if the school is not next door, your school district may bus them to a private school. Find out how far away they are willing to do it. If the school is beyond the busing radius, perhaps there are other families attending the school who live near you. Set up a car pooling plan.
How to Find the Right School
After you have decided that Christian education is the way to go, how do you find the right school? Make a search. Use the Yellow Pages, Google, local parent magazines and Christian news sources. Ask at your church. Ask family and friends. Do their children attend a Christian school? How do they like it? Make a list of at least 5 Christian schools in the area; visit their websites and then visit the schools.
Open Houses: most private schools hold regular Open House events to showcase what they have to offer. When you attend, collect all the written material you can. Come prepared with questions to ask. When you get back to the car, write down the important things you learned so that you don't forget. After a few Open Houses, the information could become a blur!
Tours: if the Open House opportunities don't fit in your schedule, call the schools and set up a tour. They will be happy to accommodate you.
Classroom Visit: when you have narrowed your preferences down to one or two schools, set up a daytime visit. If school is in session, you and your child should sit in on some classes. Perhaps your child would like to spend the day, to try it on for a size.
Though it is not required that Christian schools be accredited, many have chosen to join educational organizations where they can gain private school accreditation. The value of this is that they not only have reached a certain level of achievement, recognized by education professionals, but they have access to a rich supply of professional development and curriculum resources to enhance their school.
Christian Education Organizations: