We Catholics get asked a lot of questions by non-Catholics. They are curious about what we do and why we do it. I love it when people ask me questions. Not only do I get to help them understand, it helps me understand some things, too. The Church has a long history, and I don't know all of it. I am always reading and listening and learning about it.
A common question people ask is, "Why do you send your children to Catholic school?"
Well, it's Catholic Schools Week across the country, so I figured this was a good time to let you all know why we send our kids. Long-time readers know the importance of our church and school family in our lives, but I don't think I've ever spelled out why.
1. First and foremost, our kids are not only allowed to talk about God, but they do it all day long. They begin and end the school day with prayer. They pray before most of their classes. They pray the rosary. They read Scripture. They discuss the role God plays in their lives. They write about the ways God is calling them to be good stewards. They learn Math and Science and Reading and Writing and Computers as all kids do, but the one difference is that God is a part of that learning.
2. As Christians, we are called to love everyone. Not just people who think like we do. Not just people who are nice to us. Not just people who have a way to pay us back. Everyone. It is a big deal in our schools. Service to others is stressed constantly. There are food drives and walk-a-thons and letters to veterans and prayers for those in pain and carrying heavy things for visitors and raising money for Heifer International. From 6th grade through high school, all students are required to complete service hours. They work in food banks, play Euchre with residents in nursing homes, babysit while parents attend church events, make meals for the homeless, make cookies for prison inmates, tutor children in homeless shelters, and clean up the streets in downtown Indianapolis. They learn that they were not put on this earth to hoard their talents to their own benefit, but to use them to serve others.
3. The school calendar follows the liturgical calendar. Clearly, public schools shouldn't have to serve meatless lunches on Fridays during Lent or allow kids to leave school to attend Mass on holy days of obligation. By going to a Catholic school, we don't have to worry about it. During Advent, the kids focus on preparing for His birth. They are able to have a true Christmas program and sing Silent Night. They participate in Stations of the Cross during Lent. They can have a rabbi come in to walk them through a Seder meal.
4. Let's just talk about school Masses for a minute. I never leave one without at least one tear in my eye. Each week, the Mass is completely led by students (except for the priest, of course). They are the cantors and choir, the servers around the altar, the readers of Scripture and petitions, the ushers and the gift bearers. And this all starts when the kids are in kindergarten. There is nothing like watching a 5 year old standing on his tippy toes to reach the microphone in order to read God's word. Most of the time we can just see the tops of their heads as they read in their adorable little voices. These kids aren't just passive members of their Church. They are active participants helping to bring God to others.
5. For a variety of reasons, the people at our school are very much a family. By and large, Catholic schools are grades K-8. Kids get to be in the building with their siblings (and if the area is anything like ours, with lots of cousins, too!) for years. With little kids around, teenage middle schoolers have a higher expectation to behave themselves and be helpful. In fact, when our school added a preschool, their room was put directly across the hall from the 8th grade rooms. It warms a heart to see all of these big and little kids interacting and taking care of each other on a daily basis. Just yesterday, Buttercup was telling a group of us how much she enjoyed the hugs and hellos she constantly received in the halls from children whom she had led at VBC one summer.
I could go on about Catholic schools all day long, but it all boils down to one reason. At a Catholic school, our kids are not only allowed, but encouraged, to talk about and live the faith and values they learn at home and grow in their own hearts.
Our family is very blessed, to be sure.
If you'd like to read more about why people send their children to Catholic schools or what to do if you are thinking about sending your kids to one, there are many great posts linked up over at Rita's blog, Catholic Review.
I know many of you are not Catholic, so if you have a question about anything Catholic, please feel free to ask me. If I don't know the answer, I'll find it for you!
Have a lovely day!