More About Christian Schools

These articles highlighting Christian Schools appeared in the Sheboygan Press during the week of January 11, 2009.

Article 1:  Christian schools in Sheboygan County offer a unique educational option

Article 2:  Mix of ages in Christian schools offers several benefits for students

Article 3:  Christian schools stress leadership

Article 4:  Cost of tuition for Christian schools pays dividends down the road

Community Conversations: Christian schools in Sheboygan County offer a unique educational option
By Peggy Henseler January 11, 2009
About a year ago, The Sheboygan Press ran a series of articles on the editorial page highlighting each of the Sheboygan Area School District's charter schools. Approximately 710 students currently attend the charter schools. Compare this number to the approximately 2,340 students who currently attend our 16 Christian schools in Sheboygan County.

Christian schools are private schools that are religious based. They may be inter-denominational, Lutheran or Catholic. These schools hold a strong presence in our community, educating children from preschool through high school.

Leadership representatives from our schools met to discuss various messages about our schools that we would like to share with the community. Rather than highlighting each school individually, we would like to speak to what makes Christian education a wonderful option in our community.

We encourage members of our community to visit these schools and witness firsthand the great education that is offered within their walls.

Our faith-based education is the main component that sets our schools apart. "Merry Christmas!" "Happy Easter!" "So sorry to hear about your mom's illness; let's pray for her together." These aren't words you'll hear in many schools in Sheboygan County, but you will hear them in every one of our 16 Christian schools.

God is part of our day, every day.

We know we can always turn to God in prayer, we can use the teachings of Jesus to learn lessons on the playground and we develop values and beliefs that prepare our students not only for high school and college, but also for life. It's the greatest strength of our Christian schools.

The Christian identity of our schools is the key component of what we are about. It is central to our mission, philosophy and goals. Religion is not just one of the many subjects taught at our schools, it is an integral part of our school life and is woven throughout our day and curriculum. Children not only learn the facts of our faith, they live the Christian traditions, participate in the Christian celebrations and are joined together in prayer daily.

The time to teach our children about our faith is when they are young and to continue that education as they begin to make important decisions.

During adolescence a child is faced with many choices, ranging from somewhat minor issues to life-changing decisions regarding morality and sexuality. What better context to make those decisions than from a Christian faith perspective?

Middle-school age is a time of great physical, emotional and developmental change. It is most important for middle school, as well as high school age students, to have a firm faith life on which to depend. Making that faith life an important component of each school day gives these students an opportunity to draw on that faith and develop their relationship with God. Since adolescent students' emotions can range from extreme joy to deep depression (and this can happen within a frame of five minutes!), it is important for them to know that God is only a prayer away. Developing a strong faith life now individually, with their family, in school and in church will lead to a life-long relationship with God.

Peggy Henseler is an administrator at St. Dominic School in Sheboygan.

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Community Conversations: Mix of ages in Christian schools offers several benefits for students
By Peggy Henseler January 12, 2009
Whether you're a 5-year-old kindergartner or a 14-year-old eighth-grader, a kindergarten through eighth-grade elementary school is the best school of choice. More and more research supports the philosophy that a building that houses grades K-8 is the best learning environment for early childhood education, as well as adolescent middle schoolers. All of our Christian elementary schools in Sheboygan County offer this K-8 (most also offer preschool as well) education. Our parents find great comfort in knowing that their child will be in the same school from their very first day of school as kindergartners or preschoolers until they enter high school.

How do primary aged students benefit from being in a K-8 school? Middle school students add so much excitement to a school! Primary students (grades PK-5) benefit from this excitement. By interacting with the older children and participating in activities planned by them, the primary students build a rapport with older children and benefit from the mentoring relationships that develop. They look forward to the day they can take on those same leadership roles.

Lutheran High School Executive Director Jim Pingel said: "The students entering Lutheran High who come from K-8 schools seem so much more well-adjusted for the transition to high school mainly due to their experience in mentoring and leadership roles."

How do middle school-aged students benefit from being in a K-8 school?

Middle school is a time of great self-awareness, self-obsession, self-absorption. Yes, middle school-age children are very concerned with themselves their appearance, their ability to make friends, their emotions, their independence and the way they are viewed by others, especially their peers. They are very self-conscious about how the things they say, do or feel will be viewed and judged by their peers. For that reason, they often stifle emotions, reactions, and responses that they actually feel at the risk of losing their "reputation."

In a small K-8 school, middle-schoolers are mentors and are allowed to still be children. Where else but a small K-8 setting would you find middle-school age children willing to stop on the way outside to tie a younger student's shoes, or make Christmas soldiers out of construction paper with a first-grade partner?

Being in a school with smaller children allows these students to express those true emotions that might be viewed with criticism and intolerance in a strictly middle-school setting. In short, being in a building with younger children allows middle-schoolers to both continue to enjoy childhood and enjoy leadership roles in the school as well.

Why is a K-8 school best for parents?

Early adolescence is a time when children try to distance themselves from their parents. Yet, this is the time when parents need to be most involved in their child's growth and development. What better setting is there than a K-8 setting where parents know the teachers and administration well, and know the parents of the peers their children interact with?

When children go from a K-5 elementary school to a large middle school, parents are at a disadvantage. They don't know the teachers, they are not familiar with the school environment (policies, procedures, layout), and they do not know their child's friends and their parents. This is a time when parents should know more not have more unknowns.

That's why K-8 is best for all.

Editor's Note: There are 16 Christian schools in Sheboygan County, 10 of which are in Sheboygan. They include Bethlehem Lutheran, Christ Child Academy, Christian High School, Holy Family School, Immanuel Lutheran, Lutheran High School, St. Dominic School, St. Paul Lutheran, Sheboygan Christian School and Trinity Lutheran. The other schools in the county include Oostburg Christian, Our Lady of the Lakes (Random Lake), St. John Lutheran (Random Lake), St. John Lutheran (Plymouth), St. John the Baptist (Plymouth) and St. Mary's School (Sheboygan Falls). This is the second of four Community Conversation columns about Christian schools in Sheboygan County.

Peggy Henseler is an administrator at St. Dominic School in Sheboygan.

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Community Conversations: Christian schools stress leadership
By Peggy Henseler January 13, 2009 
One question people touring our Christian schools often ask is how our students fare when they leave a class of 15 to 20 students and enter a high school class of as many as 400 students. The answer is simple: they do great. Educating confident leaders is one of our many strengths.

Here's why: when students are in a small school they are compelled to take on leadership roles. If they want a school newspaper, they have to write the school newspaper; if they want a student council, they have to run for office; if they want a dance, they have to plan the dance. In a small school, no one can easily blend into the woodwork. Because they have experience with all these leadership roles, it is natural that they step into these opportunities in high school. They have vast leadership experience. Our children enter high school self-confident, self-assured and ready for the challenges ahead.

Another strength of our Christian schools is our strong and challenging academic program. Academic excellence is a high priority in all of our schools. Our schools offer small class size and that means lots of one-on-one attention and close tracking by teachers who have known the students for all of their elementary years and continually challenge them to achieve excellence.

A small school also allows for a great deal of parent involvement, communication between parents and teachers and a mutual support system between school and home. That support system is so crucial to student success. In our Christian schools, students challenge each other to achieve academic success and honor roll recognition. Whereas peer pressure in many settings is a negative term, the peer pressure, in this case, is to excel and lead.

There are so many ways to measure our academic success. Our schools willingly share their standardized test scores. We track our students as we watch them excel at the high school and we witness the vast majority of them go on to college. Graduates of our Christian schools leave us rooted in the Gospel values, well educated for success and ready to take on leadership roles in life.

Co-curricular activities are another important component of all of our schools. Students are encouraged to share their God-given talents in all areas of school life. Nearly every one of our students is involved in at least one co-curricular activity; many are involved in numerous throughout the year.

Students have many opportunities for co-curricular involvement. Starting in fifth grade and going through eighth grade, all of our schools offer an athletic program. There is so much to be said for the pride and excitement of representing your school on the basketball court or hosting a tournament in your own school.

These types of events bring students and parents together and form community celebrations and fun that is second to none.

Our Christian schools also offer opportunities for involvement in band, forensics, drama, choir, student council, school newspaper and countless other student inspired service clubs and projects. And, the wonderful thing about co-curricular activities in a small elementary or high school setting is that nearly all the students participate. You can't get "lost in the crowd" in a class of 16.

Many of our students find talents they didn't know they had simply because they were "compelled" to be in the school play so they'd have enough actors. Besides the usual co-curricular activities you'd find in many schools, our students also have the opportunity to participate in ministries and service projects of our various churches. Family, school, church ... all one and all committed to the same goals and aspirations. What a perfect place to raise a child.

Editor's Note: There are 16 Christian schools in Sheboygan County, 10 of which are in Sheboygan. They include Bethlehem Lutheran, Christ Child Academy, Christian High School, Holy Family School, Immanuel Lutheran, Lutheran High School, St. Dominic School, St. Paul Lutheran, Sheboygan Christian School and Trinity Lutheran. The other schools in the county include Oostburg Christian, Our Lady of the Lakes (Random Lake), St. John Lutheran (Random Lake), St. John Lutheran (Plymouth), St. John the Baptist (Plymouth) and St. Mary's School (Sheboygan Falls). This is the third of four Community Conversation columns about Christian schools in Sheboygan County.

Peggy Henseler is an administrator at St. Dominic School in Sheboygan.

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Community Conversations: Cost of tuition for Christian schools pays dividends down the road
By Peggy Henseler January 14, 2009 
For the past three columns I have discussed the educational and spiritual benefits of our Christian schools in Sheboygan County. There are many people who understand the value of a Christian education and here are a few comments our parents have made about our Christian schools:

"Our children have the opportunity to learn and grow intellectually through a faith-filled, loving and caring staff and community."

"The teachers, principal and families make it such a warm and welcoming school. I love the size and the personal relationships my children have with their teachers."

"Our school provides a safe environment for learning. Values and kindness are expected and encouraged."

"Knowing my child is in good-hands during the school day is priceless."

"Our school provides an encouraging, stress-free, welcoming Christian environment that fosters self-confidence. It is an excellent environment to encourage creativity and exploration within set boundaries."

How much does it cost to send a child to a Christian school? There's no getting around it, Christian schools are private schools and private schools must charge tuition in order to exist. Many people think that only those from the highest economic level send their children to our schools. Not true. The tuition costs vary from school to school, but all of our schools work to keep tuition affordable to our families. Compared to the many other things people spend their money on, this is an investment that never stops paying dividends. Parents make sacrifices to send their children to our schools and many also benefit from the many forms of tuition assistance, grants and scholarships that are offered.

Choosing a Christian school is just that, a choice. With that choice comes some financial obligations that need to take precedence over other choices. But, our parents all 4,000-plus of them will tell you that in spite of the sacrifice, the cost, Christian education is a high priority and the best decision they ever made. And, their children, our graduates, agree. It's hard to put a price tag on the value of preparing a child for life.

Leaders from all of our Christian schools encourage families in our community to explore the possibility of a Christian education. Call one of our schools, schedule a tour and witness firsthand the wonderful education that takes place within our walls. The choice of a school for your child is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. We encourage you to explore all of your options when making that decision.

Editor's Note: There are 16 Christian schools in Sheboygan County, 10 of which are in Sheboygan. They include Bethlehem Lutheran, Christ Child Academy, Christian High School, Holy Family School, Immanuel Lutheran, Lutheran High School, St. Dominic School, St. Paul Lutheran, Sheboygan Christian School and Trinity Lutheran. The other schools in the county include Oostburg Christian, Our Lady of the Lakes (Random Lake), St. John Lutheran (Random Lake), St. John Lutheran (Plymouth), St. John the Baptist (Plymouth) and St. Mary's School (Sheboygan Falls). This is the fourth of four Community Conversation columns about Christian schools in Sheboygan County.

Peggy Henseler is an administrator at St. Dominic School in Sheboygan.

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