My two children start classes for the first time in Catholic elementary school this week. It’s a time of excitement and measured anxiety in our home.
My 9-year-old boy was homeschooled from K through 4th grade, and will now enter a fifth grade of many boys and girls. How will he adjust, fit in, adapt to not being the only student in our basement classroom?
My 5-year-old boy went to Catholic preschool and now enters kindergarten in the same school as his brother. I worry less about his adjustment because he has always gone "out" to school, and got along well at preschool. But as a father, I am still concerned that all goes well.
Now that both of my boys will be educated outside the home, I am giving serious thought about what I want from the school, as a Catholic parent.
Here is my list of 8 Rules for Catholic Schools:
+ Teach the Catholic faith in its fullness, no apologies (but some apologetics). Of course, religion class should be attractive and enjoyable, but don’t be afraid to have the kids memorize the seven sacraments, the Ten Commandments and the Apostles’ Creed. They don’t have to understand everything fully now (I’m still exploring the depths of the faith!), but if they memorize the essentials they can always have one of those "aha!" moments later on.
+ This means, of course, that they must learn that there is heaven and hell, good and evil, reward and punishment, and that life is either a movement toward or away from God. All teaching and learning should be conducted with this reality as a backdrop.
+ Demand and expect excellence – and model that excellence in the way classes are taught, discipline is given and problems are handled. Catholic principles apply to all subjects, not just religion class, and our faith teaches us to pursue excellence in human endeavors, with the understanding that sometimes humans fail.
+ Teach the sacredness and beauty of human life, that each person is a unique, once-and-forever creation of a good and loving God. Instill this ethic by the respect and fairness shown by teachers toward one another and toward the students.
+ Teach them to pray, and pray with them. A Catholic school should be a place of prayer, which means a "lifting up of the heart and mind to God." This should be the spirit not just during morning prayers or first Friday Mass, but in every subject and in every class. Even during math and computer science, a spirit of "lifting up" the mystery of human inquiry and effort should be present.
+ Engage their bodies in healthy recreational activities – sports, outings, nature walks – that will thrill their souls as well, and give them a spirit of camaraderie and school pride.
+ Love them as the children of God that they are, precious and open to eternity. Build a school environment of love, care and protection that respects their freedom yet is never slow to correct and discipline when needed.
+ Remember that we, the parents, are their primary educators. Return them to us each day whole and inspired. Work with us to help them discover what God has in store as they grow from our care.
There are many more points I could add, but these will do for this week, at least. Please add your own list in the comment box below!
What do you expect from your Catholic school?