Friday, April 18, 2014

5 Reasons Why I send My Kids to a Catholic School

I am linking up with Rita over at the The Catholic Review for this weeks post.   Be sure to check out the posts from other great Catholic bloggers at that site as they too write about why they send their kids to Catholic Schools.

One of the things that rocked me in grad school was the recognition that not even the educators of educators agree on the real purpose of education.  As a developmentalist in the College of Education my curriculum entailed courses like Inequality of Education.  We discussed the role that culture, both macro and micro levels - has on the education system.  Some view education as a place for social reproduction whereas the more optimistic see it as a leveling field.   After 7 years teaching future teachers, with a shinny PhD in my hands,  I opted out of public education and happily paid the extra cash for my kids to go to a Catholic school.  It isn't because I think public schools in our community are bad - quite the contrary we live in a great district.  It is because I am greedy - I want more for my kids than what public schools are allowed to give.

Catholic Education in the US has its roots as far back as 1606 when the Franscicans opened a school in St. Augustine, Florida.

Yes, these are my munchkins in front of that very school a few years ago.  They were totally unimpressed and eager to get to the fake pirate ship and the very real fort.  But they humored me with a photo nonetheless.

I could go on about the history of Catholic education in the US and how they are responsible pretty much for our modern education system but that really doesn't have anything to do with why I am sending my kids to a Catholic school.

My rational is based on my vision of the purpose of education - and the ability the Catholic Church has to educate the total child.  I know there are awesome teachers there in public schools, men and women who have a strong moral compass and are loving and guide their students towards good choices and sound moral judgements - this post is not about public schools and how wonderful their teachers are.  Someone else is free to write about that else where.

What my kids are able to receive however is a education that is Catholic first - they aren't at a school that happens to be Catholic, but rather are in a community of Catholics that teach my children.  

"Catholic schools have a unique religious charism that provides 
a purifying and balancing of human relationships"(Simonds, 2007).  

This balancing occurs through Sacramentality, Meditation, Communion, and Tradition: experiencing God in and through all things, Coming to God through Jesus, Living the Gospel in Community, and being one with our cumulative and collective past.  Those are are the core values that make Catholic education distinct (Cook & Simonds, 2014).  More practically though I have outlined 5 reasons I love our school…so as promised in the title here are 5 of the reasons I send my kids to a Catholic school.

1.  They have enormously high standards for the kid's behavior.  I don't mean that they require the kids sit to at attention with their hands folded on their desks.  For instance, JR has a serious and maybe terminal case of 'ants in the pants'.  He is an 8-year old boy.  His teacher's solution was to put him at the back of the class so that his standing or fidgeting wouldn't bother other students.  If the behavior isn't naughty or done with malicious intent then it isn't a problem.  However, when JR started throwing erasers at another kid, there was punishment at school and I got a note home about it.   I heard a kindergarten aid tell one misbehaving child on the playground "that is not Christian behavior".  And the child UNDERSTOOD what that meant and fixed his behavior.  One of my son's was corrected by another parent in the hallway recently.  She merely stated  "your mother would not approve of your behavior right now".

2.  They welcome the family.  No closed campus here; (that is actually how another parent happened to see my son goofing off).  I have lunch with my kids once a week.  They used to have staggered lunches, so both Anna and I got to have lunch with the kids individually.  When I was done with Gracie's lunch, Anna would go to the little kindergarden playground to play with her sister and the other 'big' kids.  Now the middle kids have the same lunch hour so we sit outside and eat all together.  We have sat in for story times and movies.  I have volunteered decorating hallways while the baby played in the nearby classrooms.  I have led a literature studies groups while Anna climbed the walls nearby - literally.

3.  They see it as their mission to teach more than the ABC's.  Religion is not just a class.  Virtues are not just a list of things on a poster in the corner.   The teachers practice the virtues, reward and praise the children for showing the virtues, and strive to lead the kids towards goodness.

4.  Continuity between home and school.  I am so glad that there is continuity between the messages they get at home and the messages received at school.   It is hard to parent, but when you child spends more waking time at school than at home - you better be sure that what they are being taught is something you want taught.  When Anthony was having a hard time making a decision about whether he should go to Altar Server Training or his Soccer Game.  After talking to both his father and I about it (we disagreed with each other on what we thought he should do), I suggested he talk to another grown up he respects.  He choose his teacher from last year.  After discussing it with her he made his choice.  I of course knew what she would say (which my husband thought was cheating), but it is wonderful that he chose his former teacher to talk with.

5.  The extra stuff is not extra - it is a part of school and religious tradition.  The kids have monthly change collections for the Mission Jars.  They have monthly Works of Mercy projects - collecting blankets for the homeless, school supplies for children who go without, shampoos and toothpaste for Saint Vincent dePaul, diapers for Maggie's Place - the list goes on.  Every Friday they pray the rosary in the church before dismissal.  During Lent one year my son's 4th grade class chose to say the rosary DAILY as a special devotion.  They do Stations of the Cross as a school weekly during Lent with each grade taking turns leading.  The last day of Lent they take all morning and do a Trek through the Desert - it is a school wide re-inactment of the Exodus from Egypt.   It is complete with Matzo and Grape juice, costumes, the parting of the see, the destruction of the golden calf… and then they evolve to Jesus's ministry and The Last Supper.  It takes all morning and includes children preschool age to 8th grade.  And the kids love it.  These photos are from last year's Trek…

The 5th graders have preschool buddies.  They pair up here to help take them "out of Egypt".
 Classes are the 12 Tribes of Israel.
They have grape juice an a somber ceremonial retelling of the plagues.
 Moses parts the Red Sea and then the tribes follow him into the church for 
the second half of the activity.

I got carried away here with the Trek.  Back to the point of the post...

Engraved the walls of my college is written these words:

 "The paramount obligation of a college is to develop within it students the ability to think 
clearly and independently and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully"
- Eleanor Browning Scripps 

It was infused into our learning process - we didn't take a class on it - rather every class reinforced this vision.  Their goal was that we become independent, confident, courageous, hopeful, clear thinking graduates.  In a similar way, my kid's school has a clear vision - they educate the children in a way that will allow them to know God, serve God, and love God in this life, and be happy with Him in the next.   And the process that they use to teach this is through relationships - relationships between students, teachers, parents, those outside the community, and of course primarily by helping them deepen their relationship with God.

The ABC's will come.  Just to be clear, I am not saying that their school has poor academics - In general, I have been pleased with the academics.  I do like being at a school where that is not the only focus. As they get older, they will tranition to a charter school nearby, but they will retain the foundation they learned in these early formative years.   Although my husband and I are academic over-achievers,  I know that whether or not my son takes a certain AP class in high school will have very little bearing on his "success" as I define it.   Learning to get along with other, treat people with dignity and respect, and most importantly learn to know, love, and serve God - well those lessons are priceless and worth every penny.

Thanks for stopping by!

Cook, T. and Simonds, T (n.d.). The charism of 21-st century Catholic schools: Building relationships. Retrieved from Romans Catholic Diocses of Salt Lake website

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