School uniforms are common in parochial schools.

Questions Parents Should Ask When Choosing a Parochial School

by Aline Lindemann

Whether your child will be attending her first year of kindergarten, elementary school in a new district or your child just needs a new middle or high school environment, it's important to ask questions when choosing your child's school. And if you're considering a parochial school, you need to consider some specific issues concerning your child, your family, the school's curriculum and culture, and how this school would prepare your child for his future.

1. Your Child

Many parochial schools offer a structured environment within a traditional classroom setting -- uniforms, desks in rows and more emphasis on compliance and academics than arts and individualism. Ask yourself what kind of environment your child thrives in, and ask the parochial school administration what they offer for kids who struggle to fit into the school's framework.

2. Your Family

Parochial schools charge tuition because they receive less or no funding from governments. Extra fees might be required for supplies, uniforms, meals and extracurricular activities. Sometimes a varied fee structure is based on your family's membership in their church or another church of the same denomination. Ask what the requirements are for the various tuition prices and ask yourself whether your budget will allow for tuition payments. And ask yourself whether your family is prepared to meet the religious requirements.

3. Curriculum

Though the academics at most parochial schools are slightly ahead of their public school counterparts, ask what kind of capability the parochial school has for kids who need remediation or tutoring. Religious education is typically part of the curriculum at a parochial school; find out how often the students are expected to attend religious services and whether opportunities exist for active participation, such as acolyting, or sacramental preparation.

4. Culture and Environment

Parochial schools are often smaller than public schools and many educate children from kindergarten through eight grade on one campus. Ask how the school fosters and encourages a sense of community or kinship. Do junior high school students have much younger reading buddies? Fundraisers such as auctions and carnivals are a common occurrence at parochial schools, but it's also important to find out what kind of non-fundraising community building events are available, including family picnics, religious celebrations and holiday parties.

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