It’s Catholic Schools Week! For our family, this also has meant kindergarten registration week for our youngest child. (More on the bittersweetness of that reality in a future post.) So on Tuesday, the two of us tromped off to school to take part in the kindergarten open house. After enjoying a dessert in the cafeteria and being introduced to next year’s kindergarten teachers, Nick left with the pre-K kids and teachers down the hall to try out the pre-school room:
He came back totally unenthused about kindergarten:
While the kids were off doing their thing, we prospective and current parents listened to the annual “Why I love Catholic schools talk” given by a fellow parent. This talk never fails to energize me and affirm our sacrificial choice of being part of our local Catholic schools. But something in this year’s talk really hit me. It was when the father speaking said, “It’s not something I can necessarily put into words. It’s more a feeling I have from being part of this community.”
Yes, I thought, so true! And it’s interesting, because over the week I’ve gotten involved in several discussions about Catholic schools, this being a week in which the whole network is being hyped up, including at weekend Masses throughout the diocese. And I’ve found that some of these discussions have prompted very strong reactions within the “camps” of parents – those who have chosen private school and those who haven’t. I even found myself getting a little defensive as I listened to a few myths that have been circulating around town about Catholic schools. While I don’t believe Catholic schools are a perfect set-up, any more than public schools or home-schooling are 100 percent fool-proof, I feel challenged to verbalize some of the factors that have gone into my/our decision to lean toward Catholic schools.
* I believe very strongly in the philosophy of fully educating a child’s soul as well the physical and mental components of who they are.
* While I admire home-schooling parents, I feel neither equipped nor called to this myself. A lot of this has to do with the individual personalities of our children. I just don’t see it happening, and I have enjoyed seeing my kids’ relationships with their teachers.
* During young motherhood, Catholic schools began to seem more appealing to me after I observed friends whose kids were already in the system and how the parents’ own faith journeys were being enlivened through what their kids were learning at school; how often faith was cropping up in family discussions because of this setting. In my own life, I have been delighted with the exchanges that go on in our home regarding our faith and how to best live it out that would not have had the same fertile soil in which to emerge in the public-schools environment.
* I love school uniforms. I view them as a beautiful equalizer that, whether the kids always realize it, removes a lot of pressure of having to keep up with the latest trends.
* I love that the kids start their day in prayer and have a supportive community of friends and teachers praying with them. When their souls are troubled, they can bring this to their school community and be supported in prayer and action.
* I love the base our children are getting in the chance to know and live out their faith through community service projects carried out with a Christ-like spirit. Projects like creating “birthday bundles” for kids in local shelters, baking and bringing homemade bread to shut-ins, participating in Mass at local nursing homes (and sharing their talents of reading and singing there) – these are among the many endeavors that are helping them foster a spirit of charity.
* The generous, tight-knit community truly provides a safe-haven for the children and parents alike.
* Our Advent program is truly one of my favorite events of the year.
* The Blessing of the Pets is yet another event that helps bring God and prayer into the picture.
* All the little utterances that come forth after school and many times in between that are linked to the soul and witness to God’s goodness, beauty and truth.
Wow. I could go on and on. And these are mostly all tangible examples of what has drawn us to Catholic schools. There are many other aspects I could never truly describe, but the feeling is generally one of deep satisfaction knowing that God is allowed to flourish in the hearts of our children in a very vital way, and that they are allowed to openly express their love for Him and their faith. And I believe the earlier they have this base, the more grounded spiritually they’ll be when it’s time to step out into the wide world.
Will every child who comes out of Catholic schools be civic-minded, socially well-adjusted and/or bound for Harvard? No, again, no system is perfect and every child responds differently to the chances offered them. But my main goals as a parent concerning my kids’ education are clear. Yes, I want my children to be well-prepared for the academic life beyond their primary-school years, but even more, I want them to be well-prepared for a life of service to their Creator, a life that will bring them one step closer to the most honorable promotion of them all: heaven.
Ultimately, that’s what it’s all about. Every decision we make either brings us closer to or further from that primary goal. So why not offer our children an extra bit of spiritual nourishment to help in the launch? I know there are many ways for us parents to do that. Choosing Catholic schools is one of them.Thank you to all the teachers and administrators, parents and kids, who make our local Catholic schools a wonderful option!
Parents, what factors drove your decision to go with the private, public or home-schooling option? Are any of you products of private school? If so, how do you feel about the experience now, as an adult?