Monday, January 26, 2015

Catholic Schools Week and Why We Love Them

This is a repost from last year...feverish kids and an impending snowstorm are my excuses for not writing a new post...forgive me!

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:

1) Pray

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.


  1. I so appreciate this post. I do have a question because we are seriously considering the Catholic school here ( there is only one and the next closest is 40 min away), do you think they are that academically challenging/different from public school - strictly academic sense of the matter. The diocese opted to adapt its curriculum to Common Core (for a variety of reason but it is not worth discussing for this purpose) and I'm really concerned about the academics of the school.

    1. So this has been in my experience...

      Short answer - Catholic schools are academically on par AND kids seem to learn more because there is more teaching and less disciplining.

      From my own experience (and my husband's) we both thought Catholic schools were tougher academically. College was a breeze compared to my Catholic high school. That said, I was in all the AP/honors classes. The kids who come to the Catholic high school where we work from Catholic elementary schools all seem very academically qualified with the exception that some of our Catholic elementary schools are a little behind in math. Not that the students aren't prepared for high school math, but that not many of them are prepared to enter the higher level math as freshman. That is changing though, and my kid's elementary school is now on par to have their 8th graders complete a year of Algebra 1 before high school.

      Catholic schools strive to be college prep, as that is what attracts lots of students, and not just Catholic students. So the emphasis is heavy on the academics and less stress is on athletics. And from what teachers who have taught at both public and Catholic schools have told me is that it is night and day teaching students in public schools vs. Catholic schools. Overall, the students in Catholic schools are there to learn (parents shelling out dough) and the discipline side of it all leaves very few classroom issues. The biggest issue we see here is kids on their phones and girls with their uniform skirts rolled up. Not so much with the fighting, drugs, bullying, etc. It's a perfect learning environment.

      I'm totally biased because I love Catholic schools, so I would talk to people with kids at public schools too. Public schools are not from the devil ;) There are good kids and teachers found everywhere! Public schools definitely have a leg up for children with special needs, as they have specialized teachers on staff and government funds available. And the biggest plus - they are free! I just love the faith, order, respect and learning environment of Catholic schools, and am blessed we can provide it for our kids.

    2. I hear you on the discipline thing.

      I so badly want to LOVE our Catholic school...really. My husband went to K-7 there centuries ago. The principal was his kindergarten teacher. They go to Mass one a week. The priest there is AWESOME. Trust me I really want to love it. But I think (at least in this diocese) the schools have been violated by CC for no good reason and I have talked to a number of parents - who have their kids at Catholic schools in this diocese and they are 'on guard', if you will because of CC.

      I'm not trying to debate or anything or get into a lengthy CC discussion but in our circumstances if CC was not an issue we'd be first in line for kindergarten registration. I was first in line for pre-K registration last year and put in our app fee and everything and then CC.

      I'm just super frustrated because I like my job but I feel like I'm getting backed into the homeschooling corner because freakin' CC.

    3. That photo of Eamon on career day has to seriously be one of the top cutest photos on your blog ever. :)
      I love this post Colleen. I so agree with you. I love my experience at Catholic school, hated it at public school (the last two years of high school) for some of the reasons you mentioned. It is a huge commitment financially for us now with six kids, and I am grateful we can do it, and I have found it to be worth every penny. The kindness that is taught, the respect for their classmates, amazes me and has for the fifteen years we've had kids in school.
      About CC-I would say really sit down and ask the principal and teachers. I know I am very wary also, but I don't see our parochial schools being gung-ho, I see them approach, and adapt with the same wariness I have. I also love (and this might vary by state) that we have no "teach to the test" stress put on the kids. Hardly a thing is said about it, just a notification to the parents, and some directives to the students that week. When I hear public school experiences with so much emphasis on testing-making a huge deal out of it, games, rewards, free days, stress and pressure all year- it makes me feel so grateful once again.

  2. Love this! I big-puffy-heart our Catholic school, I only wish it went beyond sixth grade. The closest Catholic high school is in a town about an hour (or more) away–not really doable for us. :(

  3. I went to Catholic school, my mother and my grandmother all went to the same Catholic grade school. Unfortunately, the Catholic HS was closed by the time I moved up. My daughter is in K in the public schools (they are very good here) and it breaks my heart she isn't in Catholic school.


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