Thursday July 16, 2015

The Faith of our Families: Catholic Schooling Options

I came across an article on the U.S. Catholic website called “Four questions to ask when choosing a Catholic school” by Molly Jo Rose. I will be honest that when it comes to Catholic schools I am a bit biased since I have attended Catholic schools my entire life and I am studying to be a Catholic educator. However, this article does a very good job of explaining all of the things that one must consider in sending their children to a Catholic school. The main challenge is that Catholic schools take a lot out of a family in terms of finances. Before you continue reading this or read the article, think about this point that the author presents – “It’s about how to give our children the gift of faith. With so much on the line, how can we not afford a Catholic education?”

While I am not a parent that is trying to put children through Catholic schools, I am a college student that is trying to pay for her own tuition at a Catholic University so I do understand that it
sometimes seems like a hard choice to make. If the cost of tuition is the only thing that is holding you back from sending your kids to Catholic schools (or attending a private, Catholic University yourself) let me just tell you that 1. It is worth it and 2. God will provide. I would not be the person that I am today, being able to write this blog about Catholic Education of all things, if my parents had not worked as hard as they did to send me and my two sisters to Catholic schools. When it was time for me to choose a college, I was set on my local public University because I would be able to go there for free and live at home. Then I visited UD and my life changed completely. Throughout my entire senior year of high school I was going through an inner battle trying to decide between the school that would provide for financial peace and the school of my dreams that would provide for spiritual strengthening and independence. I decided the night before decision day that I needed to take this leap of faith and attend the school that I knew I belonged at even if it meant paying off debt for the rest of my life. I still struggle to pay my tuition each semester and I still have moments where I doubt my decision but every time God reminds me that it’s worth it and that He will provide for me. During one of these moments of doubt this past year, my incredibly wise best friend, Megan, gave me advice that I will never forget; she simply said “fishes and loaves” and she reminded me that God would provide because I am at UD for a reason. Now every time that I doubt my decision to come here, I say those words to myself and I am reminded that what may seem impossible for me, what may seem like too much money for me to pay, is not impossible for God. I can assure you that each time I have been in a financial crisis because of my decision to attend this Catholic University, God has provided for me in one way or another.

The first question that the author of the article asks is “How can we make Catholic schools affordable?” Even though these schools are expensive, you must realize that the teachers and the staff of those schools do want your children to be there. Speaking from experience, Catholic educators have such a strong passion for bringing your children closer to Jesus and they understand how hard you work to send your kids to their schools. That is why they provide such resources as scholarships and discounts for families. The author also advises that prayer and grace become a part of this process; “If God wants it to happen, he’ll give us a way”.

The second question deals with considering if Catholic schools in your area teach the values that you want to instill in your children’s lives. This article gives a great list of these values that will give your children the spiritual background and growth that they need in order to become true Disciples of Christ as teens and adults. It is important that “if a family is making the financial sacrifice to send their children to a Catholic school, the least they should expect is that the school is working as an extension of their family’s faith values”.

Questions 3 and 4 offer alternative options to Catholic schooling that still incorporate the spiritual component of a Catholic school. The third question is about exploring the option of home schooling. As the author points out, home schooling would be a lot less expensive and it would allow for a flexible schedule in which the children are doing school work at their own pace. The fourth question is about sending children to public schools while involving them in a youth group and/or religious education classes. In my opinion, the environment within Catholic schools and the relationships that the students form together through their bond with Christ is a worthwhile experience that every child should have. But, I do understand that sometimes it really may not be possible to send your children to a Catholic school so these alternative options are great. In order to build up a child’s faith life, one of the most important things to make sure that they have is the opportunity for fellowship. You can teach them all about the Catholic faith in homeschooling or through religious education classes but they still need that interaction with other kids their age so that their generation can grow together in their love for Christ. Youth groups and retreats are definitely great ways to do this.

I encourage everyone to read this article about choosing the best Catholic school option for your child and family. As the author points out, no matter where you send your children to school, it all has to start in the home – “Our children have to see us living our faith. They need to watch us struggle and fight and pray and actively be the Catholic family we are called to be”.

I pray that one day we live in a world where a Catholic education is completely accessible to all children. I encourage you all to look to God to lead you to where you are meant to be and to where your children are meant to be. Always remember, fishes and loaves. God will provide. 

Written by: Victoria Schoen

Edited by: Susan Ferguson, Barbara Miller, and Regina Lloyd

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