Tuesday, January 29, 2013

On Catholic Schools

The New Year's champagne (homemade gift) has been consumed, Christmas is put away. This little house, lovingly painted, was a gift from my son to his little sister ... and I've been itching to put the dwarf hamster in it, but my daughter said NO ... and with good reason, since I've lost the little guy. It's always funny when the roles are reversed. But I digress. I'm so excited about the ALA awards -- very, very pleased with the choices. We're back into the regular school/sports routine, and I finished Emergency! I'm giving it a rest until next week, when I go back to do a final polish.

Eighth graders get to be teachers for a day as a way of giving their wonderful teachers a break in honor of Catholic schools week. My son is taking over reading and writing for the middle school. Although he's a voracious reader, he dislikes parsing sentences and analyzing them, nor does he enjoy dissecting books. He prefers to devour them. I tell him over and over that analysis can help him to better appreciate the stories as well as help him to become a better writer, but my words fall on deaf ears. But teaching reading and writing analytically will do the trick. I know from experience that any time I teach, I finally learn the subject! He is a good teacher -- I've seen him in action helping my daughter as well as other children in math or reading. Though he has also promised to send his sister to stand in a corner. Thud!

I've been thinking about the state of our Catholic schools, because although I'm a big fan of them (and a product of a Convent-based education), I realize that more and more Catholics choose to homeschool. Why is that? Is it the expense? Is it the intrusion of secular culture within the Catholic schools? And what can we do about it?

Certainly we would benefit from having more priests, nuns, and brothers. Our only Catholic high school in the diocese has a priest who can only be there part-time because he has so many other responsibilities. Although he offers daily Mass in the little chapel twice a week, unless there's a big sporting event, very few students attend. Somehow we have failed to teach our children that Mass is the most important thing in the world. If they haven't grasped it by high school, I doubt they will get it when they're out in the world where they are bombarded with the lure of power, money, sex, and prestige. First things first.

We are so very pleased with the small parish school our children attend. It is truly a model of a successful Catholic school. By many standards, it is old fashioned and decidely untrendy. You won't see kids here with iPads or cell phones. But what you will see is excellent instruction in all areas -- reading, writing, arithmetic, religion, science, history, geography, physical education. The teachers are dedicated and devoted. The children get plenty of face-time with them, which is the best way to learn. And the school, being small, is intimate, an extension of the family. Many parents volunteer -- again it is required. Even grown-ups don't always choose the best part, and we have to be coerced into helping, only to discover what a great joy it is. Most of the families know each other and the needs of other families. Best of all, the priest offers twice weekly mandatory Mass for all the students. We all know that left to their own devices, children do not always choose the best part, so developing this habit is essential. On any given daily Mass, you'll see several families in attendance. This is the life of the church. What makes a wonderful Catholic school.

Please pray for our Catholic schools, our homeschooling families, and for more vocations!


Faith E. Hough said...

Your school sounds wonderful--just what a Catholic school should be.
As a Catholic mother who chose homeschooling, I can give you only one slice of the homeschooling picture...every parent's choice is different, and there are so many factors. But we chose to homeschool because we wanted to embrace a way of life that makes learning joyful and exciting, that makes it easy for family to be the heart of the social life, that allows an intensity of focus on just what a child needs at a certain time. I find all the standardized testing particularly discouraging, after student teaching in college and seeing first hand how hard it is to teach anything adequately when you're driven to make sure the kids are passing test after test after test.
But homeschooling is definitely a choice that is not for everyone, and I am always so glad to hear of wonderful schools who are doing it right.

Mirka Breen said...

DD just accompanied in an audition a Traditional Catholic (i.e. family follows the Latin Rites and all) teen, who sang Bach Chorales. DD was so impressed with the girl and her family. Outstanding.
And your guy is gorgeous. If we lived closer I'd suggest having them meet.
{That's the Yente in me.}

Vijaya said...

Faith, I love your philosophy on schooling. It should be a joy, and I loved going to school. But I realize more and more that some things must come first. So grateful we go to a wonderfully old-fashioned Catholic school. Alas, it is not the trend (some Catholic schools are that only in name)... and I wondered whether that wasn't part of the reason for the many homeschooling moms I know.

Mirka, so wonderful to hear of traditional Catholic schools. They don't teach Latin at ours :( We're picking it up via the Latin Mass. And you are a busy matchmaker -- the handsome chap is only 13 :)

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

Your son is looking so grown up and handsome, Vijaya! I don't know very much about Catholic schools, but yours sounds lovely.

Gary Ludlam said...

Vijaya! What a wonderful entry. I very much enjoy your blog (I've loaded it into my RSS feed), and I am so glad our kids are going to the same school. It is parents like you that help to keep the school dedicated to the faith.

I am also sad to see so many Catholic families leaving the schools. Too many are counting their dollars and sending the kids to public school, which makes me so sad.

I am reminded of what the Holy Father said when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger. I don't have the direct quote with me, but he predicted in the near future a smaller, more pure Church. I believe our schools are reflecting that, and we can't be afraid of it.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts!


Vijaya said...

Amy, thanks. I have always loved Catholic schools and want to see them stay true.

Gary, thank you for visiting my online home and for all your encouragement. Catholic schooling is expensive. Gone are the days when the nuns and brothers did it as a labor of love. I would homeschool if I could not afford a Catholic education.

The sentiments of Pope B16 are spot on. Better to have a smaller, truer, more faithful church, than one that is bigger and heretical. It reminds me too that many are called, but few are chosen.