Great question! What you have here are two conflicting goods: Catholic education and being home with your kids. The good news is, no matter what you decide, a good thing will happen, right?
So, what do we do?
In my mind, there is nothing I can think of that would trump you staying home with your children. I believe that that is an invaluable experience for your young ones, and I can’t imagine any circumstance where that good should be neglected.
The fast-paced nature of our country and difficult financial times have often pushed parents into making tough decisions financially, and I don’t want to be insensitive to that. I remember that quote from The Screwtape Letters where a senior devil says to a student tempter, “If I can’t make them bad, I’ll make them busy.” And that seems to be a huge factor anymore. Maybe what I will do for this article is focus on the benefits of Catholic education and offer some alternatives for those who simply cannot pull it off financially.
When I think of my experience at a Catholic school, I find it difficult to articulate how important I feel a Catholic education is for one simple reason: Jesus. As a Catholic, there is nothing more integral to our human experience than the person of Jesus. At a Catholic school, we can introduce Jesus into every element of the students’ lives.
When a student needs help, we can pray. At Lansing Catholic, we have experienced a lot of tragedy in the last year; each time, our response (at the student’s request), has been to have Blessed Sacrament exposition.
A part of the life of a student at a Catholic school can be daily Mass, confessions, prayer, all on top of learning. I honestly believe that there is nothing better than that.
I also point to our teachers at Catholic schools. As a general rule, teachers at Catholic schools are taking a serious financial hit. They could make much more money elsewhere, but choose to minister in their role as a Catholic school teacher. That kind of sacrifice touches my heart and introduces a powerful element into the education equation. Usually, our Catholic schools don’t have the financial resources of our public schools and we struggle with our facilities and the opportunities we can offer, but I think that if we continue to strive toward being faithful to the teachings of Christ and his bride, the church, we will grow to be all we can be.
I’ll close this section with a quote from our bishops who say that Catholic school education offers the “fullest and best opportunity to realize the fourfold purpose of Christian education, namely to provide an atmosphere in which the Gospel message is proclaimed, community in Christ is experienced, service to our sisters and brothers is the norm, and thanksgiving and worship of God is cultivated.” (Renewing Our Commitment, 2005)
Now, despite the obvious benefits of a Catholic education, some simply can’t do it. There are a couple of things to do here that may help – and again, we are going on the premise that the most important thing here is the possibility of being at home with your children.
First, have you considered home schooling? More and more Christians are taking this option and finding a great opportunity to combine the power of family time together, traditional education and a strong faith life. There are numerous resources available on this issue and I encourage you to check them out. I would bet there are any number of people in your parish who are practicing home schooling and finding it to be a great joy. Also, I know that many groups who are home schooling are combining their resources and working together.
I think another thing for you to consider is your parish religious education program. I think a lot of people overlook this incredibly valuable opportunity to help their children grow in faith and knowledge. Make sure and check with your parish about the opportunities available to you for religious education programs for your children.
Enjoy another day in God’s
– Father Joseph Krupp