Friday, February 28, 2014

5 of 7: Why we love our school

I had a short "work" day Tuesday, so I had time to pick Olivia up from school. As I was making the half-hour drive there, I thought about the many reasons we love our school and why we will gladly sacrifice to pay for her to go clear across the county to the only Catholic school in our area.

We always wanted to send our kids to Catholic school. It was a lovely idea, but I could never really articulate why Catholic school was "better" than public school for our family. All of the schools in our area get excellent "grading" by the state. Most of them get an "A" grade. There are no bad schools around here. But now, as we approach mid-second-semester of our kindergarten year, there are a few things that stand out in my mind that make this particular Catholic school the right choice for us.
Undoubtedly, in a local public school Olivia would have newer and more spacious facilities. My Dad, attending Olivia's Christmas program in our school gymnasium, recalled fond memories of himself playing basketball in the same gym (as the away team). "It hasn't changed much." (My Dad would have played there in the mid 1960s.) This is absolutely true. Our school is small and the building is old.

Public schools likely have newer and better access to technology. Our school has computers in the rooms, but we don't have a computer room. We don't have much of a library to speak of. (We make up for that by taking classes to the public library on a regular basis.)

What we DO have, I think, outweighs what we don't and makes Catholic education worth every penny we pay. Here is what our school offers us:

First and foremost: We get to talk about Jesus! This is huge. Aside from the daily trips to church for Mass or other forms of group prayer, the students pray in class. They have a prayer, over the loud speaker, each morning with announcements and each afternoon at dismissal. (I experienced this firsthand when I picked Olivia up a few minutes early and she insisted we stop in the middle of the hall and pray with the principal when he came over the loud speaker.) Each classroom has selected a patron saint. They have religion class...and it is a good one! They are learning actual stuff about the liturgy and why we believe what we believe. She comes home and explains things to me that she learned in religion class. I love this!

Oh, and my very favorite is when she starts singing a song they sing in church. They are in church about 15-30 minutes a day. Some days it is Mass, but when a priest is not available they go for some other form of prayer. The first time I heard her singing the Divine Mercy Chaplet around the house, I just about exploded with joy.

The point is that Christ is truly at the center of their educational experience. That, alone, would make her Catholic schooling worthwhile.

But there are other things that set this school apart.

There are 113 kids in the whole school, grades K-8. That translates to smaller class sizes and more personal attention from the teachers. But it also means that everyone knows everyone else. Olivia is friends with kids from her class, but she also has friends from all other grades. The kids are expected to treat each other with respect and watch out for each other...and they do! I'm sure there is some level of bullying and "mean girl syndrome", but if there is, it is not evident to me and kept pretty well under control. It appears that the overarching attitude is respect and that the peer pressure leans heavily toward keeping the bullies in check. Bullies don't tend to like to be bullies if it makes them overwhelmingly unpopular.

In other words, it is a positive school culture.

That positive culture bleeds over into her long bus ride too. The bus, in my childhood experience, was an awful place where big kids bullied little kids and taught them horrible words and songs and phrases. But her bus is full of kids from her school, so the "respect culture" bleeds over into their (long) bus ride. It is excellent.

There is a collaborative spirit in the school. For example, the kindergarteners have "reading buddies" from the 4th grade who read with them once a week and help them sound out words. This helps the kindergarteners, but it also give the 4th graders some leadership and service experience.

I just love it so much. Yes, these kids learn the basics of the standard curriculum. But they learn so much more. They learn that they are a part of a bigger family of church and community. They learn to care about each other and reach out to one another. I feel very comfortable allowing this school to help us raise our children to be responsible citizens and good Christian examples in the world.

I'm participating in Jen's 7 posts in 7 days at Conversion Diary.

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