Two years ago, Phil gave a talk
at a church about the importance of Catholic school education. Last year, I wrote about the Seven Reasons we Choose Catholic Schools
. Once again Catholic Schools Week is upon us, and I would like to offer an insider's perspective to any of you who are considering your child's future education.
I was lucky enough to have attended Catholic school from 7-12 grade, and then go to a Catholic college
for my undergraduate and graduate degree. Phil's first job out of graduate school was working at our local Catholic high school (where we both
now work) and we are able to send our kids to Catholic elementary school. Their school is from preschool through 8th grade, and after they graduate, they will come to our high school and complete their entire school education in a Catholic school. Can I possibly type Catholic school any more? ;)
So I feel *qualified* to proclaim the awesomeness of Catholic schools from my unique perspectives.
|Maggie's 1st backpack|
1) As a student:
After having attended public school on Cape Cod from 1st through 6th grade, I was begging my parents to let me switch schools. I was being pulled from my science class to tutor a classmate in math, and not challenged in any of my classes because I would finish my work and have to wait for everyone else to catch up. Their were fights in the cafeteria, girls wearing scandalous outfits to catch the boys eyes, and kids talking about things I knew I shouldn't be hearing. My mom could see how unhappy I was, and let me tour the Catholic middle school that was an hour away from our house, and I fell in love. The students were respectful and disciplined, everyone was wearing modest uniforms, and what I remember most were the "knicknacks in the hall" that I couldn't get over because they would have been broken in a second back in the public school hallways. Remember, this was a public school on idyllic Cape Cod, not some inner city hoodlum, and still the difference was ginormous.
|Mother's Day Tea with my Andrew|
Somehow my parents scraped up the money for me to attend, and I just thrived. The classes were so academically challenging that when I got to college, I remember thinking high school was much harder! The smaller class size meant the teachers knew us individually and our classmates were all friends. There were plenty of social opportunities (like sports teams and clubs) that I never felt deprived in any way. After getting through most of high school in a nice Christian environment, I knew a Catholic college was what my heart desired.
|John-Paul as St. Michael for All Saints Day|
The five years I spent at Steubenville were so important as I matured into adulthood. To be surrounded by other young adults who took their faith seriously only called me on, and I watched in pain as my friends from home went to secular colleges and lost their faith. Learning in a faith-filled, disciplined, respectful environment is a priceless gift.
|Eamon's Preschool Graduation|
2) As an employee:
I just love working at a Catholic school. We have Mass or morning prayer offered every day, Confession is once a week, and Adoration occurs on the First Friday of every month. Where else can you work with those type of perks? The teachers in Catholic schools really do it for the love of educating these kids, and I think the kids can feel it. We all have to sign a contract agreeing that we are practicing our faith, and live our lives accordingly.
|MS Walk with our high school|
When their overqualified math teacher chooses to work here for less pay as opposed to a public school for more money, the kids understand the teacher's priorities. Every class begins with prayer, and morning announcements start with a prayer and a list of intentions. In the art/music/theater department, songs and plays are chosen while being mindful of the type of values and morals we want to share. Sports teams meet in the chapel for prayer before a game. We just sent 100 students to the March for Life in DC last week. There are constantly donations being collected for charities in the area. Doing good deeds for others is expected and encouraged and made to seem normal.
|Coworkers giving their time and talents to charity|
3) As a parent:
Before John-Paul was old enough to go to school, I worried about his education. I wanted the best for him and for me the best meant Catholic school. I thought about homeschooling as a distant second but honestly did not want to do it. I think being a mom that homeschools out of necessity but hating it probably wouldn't have made the best homeschooler, you know?
|Eamon on Career Day (We can only hope!)|
I prayed a lot about how we could afford Catholic elementary school, went to visit one of many in our area (we are so lucky) and fell in love with the school. The 4 year old class was in the middle of end-of-the-day-prayer when I was taking a tour, the 8th graders were busy cleaning the classrooms (service is expected), and the best preschool teacher ever
was gently waking up the 3 year olds from their nap. One little cutie woke up and looked at me with marshmallow fluff smeared on his cheek, and gave me a big smile and I was sold.
|John-Paul and a classmate performing at the Ed Fair|
After leaving the tour that day and feeling such conviction that John-Paul was meant to attend (but how?), I got a phone call from the Business Manager saying that they actually needed a bookkeeper and if I wanted the job, I could work from home. Say what? God answered my prayers! Now we could afford to send him. And that cute little fluff-faced boy? He is now a classmate and friend of John-Paul's!
|My oldest boys heading back to school|
This leads me to a very important note - if you want your child to go to Catholic Schools but think that you can't afford it, please do the following:
God has no limits to His generosity, and if it's His will, then He will find a way.
2) Apply for financial aid and scholarships
Back when I wanted to send John-Paul to school, we were a family of (almost) 5 living on a teacher's income. We definitely would have qualified for help, but I didn't even think to do it.
3) Think outside the box
Now that I am the Business Manager at a Catholic school, I see all sorts of opportunities for people to afford Catholic schools. Some people (like us) work for the school in order to get their kid's education. Some parents volunteer their time at Bingo, or other fundraisers in exchange for tuition assistance. Some parents go in at night or on the weekends and clean the school, or offer whatever talents they have - tech assistance, legal help, tutoring, or coaching a sport in order to afford tuition. Most parishes will offer a subsidy to help offset the costs, all you need to do is talk to your pastor for help. Sometimes a relative would be more than willing to invest in your child's education.
What I'm saying is that if your child receiving a Catholic school education is that important to you, try anything to make it possible. Don't be embarrassed to ask what you can do to help send your child there. We are Christians and helping one another is what we are called to do!
|All Saints Day 2010|
I hope and pray that all you Moms and Dads out there who truly desire Catholic schools for your kids will find a way to make it happen. It was and continues to be the best thing my parents ever did for me, and we are seeing all the benefits of giving the same gift to our children.