Before my daughter started kindergarten last year, my husband and I had the discussion that I am sure a lot of parents have: whether to send her to public school or to a Catholic parochial school. In many ways, it was an agonizing decision. But truth be told, I think we both knew what our answer was going to be before we even started the discussion.
I would like to start by saying that first and foremost, I believe in SCHOOL…whatever form it takes. Education is one of the most important tools we parents can give our children. And my husband and I knew we were in a good position for this. We live in a fantastic school district AND our parish parochial school is very impressive as well. So this really was not a question of where our kids would get the best education. We knew we would be happy with the curriculum and standards of either school. Besides, learning is just as much about what the student and the parents put into it as it is about what the school offers.
But there is that little issue of tuition. That was really where our biggest stumbling block occurred. When you make a side by side comparison of free education with an education that comes with a fairly sizable price tag, it is hard to ignore the difference. Catholic school tuition meant sacrifice for us. The question became, is that sacrifice worth it? When it really came down to it, we thought it was.
It is sometimes hard to explain to people who do not understand why we would choose to pay for Catholic education when we could send our kids to a wonderful public school for free and supplement their religious education with PSR (Parish School of Religion) classes once a week. But it is the same reason I chose to take a teaching position at a Catholic high school over a better paying one at a local public school. It just felt right.
It felt right for the development of my children’s spiritual lives to be a natural part of their education, that God can be part of the equation in any subject matter. After all, He is part of the whole equation in our home life. Does it not make sense that He be a part of their educational life? I am not going all “creationism over evolution” here. But I do believe that God can be found in science. And it is nice to know that my kids will be able to discuss that in a classroom setting.
And there are other things that make me happy about sending my kids to a Catholic school. I had one of those little reminders just yesterday. As I pulled into the parking lot for pickup, I noticed Grace and her classmates were encircling the statue of Mary outside the church with a bunch of blue balloons. They were having a prayer service in honor of Mary’s birthday. And like any good birthday party, they all got goodies at the end, in the form of fruit snacks. Then the students dispersed to find their parents and head home. Grace walked over to me with her friend Sarah and I said, “It looks like you guys were having a little party over there.” They both smiled and replied, “Yeah! Mary’s birthday!” Then they high-fived each other. That’s right…they were giving each other some skin for the Holy Mother’s big day. The phrase “you know you go to Catholic school when…” popped into my head. But it was really just too cute for words.
Now that we have started our second year of Catholic education for my daughter, do we ever second guess our decision? I have to admit there are times when that tuition bill comes around and I literally grunt, and times when I drive past our public elementary school and envy all that free education happening behind the doors. But other than that, I can wholeheartedly say we have been so happy with the decision we made. Grace’s school has lived up to every expectation we had, and I feel good that I am giving her (and eventually Michael) a similar educational story to the ones my husband and I had…which we actually really loved and appreciate to this day.
Oh, and I have not even BEGUN to sing the praises of those plaid uniforms. Let’s not even mention how adorable Grace looks in it. The fact that I can avoid the battle of the wardrobe every morning might just be worth the tuition alone…we certainly have enough battles to fight without that one rearing its head. Oh, how my gratitude to the Catholic school system swells…