why do parents send their children to catholic schools
I have a set of twins, Noah and Naomi, in first grade at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Pinellas Park, Florida. I put them in Catholic school for kindergarten, and now my intention is to have them in Catholic school all the way to attending the University of Notre Dame. I made the choice of Sacred Heart because of several different experiences, but not because I or the twins are Catholic. I donÁt have a home church, and I go between Catholic and Baptist churches. I canÁt say what religion my twins will end up being, but I can say they enjoy religion. Whether itÁs a Baptist or Catholic church, they want to go and be a part of it. But IÁve sent Noah and Naomi to Sacred Heart primarily because of experiences in my family and experiences with public schools. I got interested in the school because I have nieces who have been there for some time. I watched my nieces growing up and reading to my kids at an early age, and it made me want to have my kids attend there as well. I have older children a daughter whoÁs 22 and a son whoÁs 17 and they were in the public school system. That school decided they would hold back my son in third grade because he had trouble with reading, but I didnÁt find out my son was having trouble and could have had tutoring until he didnÁt pass. They should have addressed the problem earlier and made it less uncomfortable for him to be at a different level than his classmates, but they didnÁt. They waited for him to fail before they said, oh, he canÁt read. I had a problem with that. In Sacred Heart (which became a a couple of years ago), they care about the student every step of the way, and they find a way to work with the kids. I know Noah is reading at a different level now than Naomi, but the teachers have put in extra time to give him one-on-one help. They didnÁt wait for the school year to be over. The school becoming an ACE Academy has helped a lot, certainly with the money thatÁs now available for extra programs, including the free after-school care.
As a single parent, a working parent, the extended hours help make it possible for me to work full-time. And IÁm thankful for FloridaÁs (tax-credit) scholarships, so I can send the kids to get a great education and pay the light bill and feed them and have a place for them to live. Sacred Heart has open houses and events to recruit new students, and the students and teachers have very diverse backgrounds. Kids donÁt learn bad behaviors like racism. By having a common denominator, which is God, people can see past their differences and other barriers. The parents are invited to get to know the teachers and staff, and youÁre acclimated into the family quite quickly. One thing I love is that the teachers, even at different grade levels, know my kids. They know the parents, too, and theyÁll reach out and say hello and Áhave a great day. Á That doesnÁt happen in public school. Sacred Heart may not have all the resources some public schools have, but they utilize the resources they have to the best of their ability. The teachers are always seeking new options to help the kids. And they care about their whole lives, about them going to college and going to heaven. In public school, the kids might talk about what they want to be, but you donÁt often hear them say they want to attend college. My kids, at seven years old, are already saying they want to attend college. Having God in the school makes these kids grow into great people. ItÁs not about being indoctrinated into any one religion. Sacred Heart teaches the kids to respect others and their religions, too. ThatÁs good because my family is unique and dynamic very open-minded on religion. When my kids come home, they tell me their experiences with church and school subjects, and they learn from both.
I think it helps with behavior. Once they know what God expects of them, they want to please God as well, and they want to please others, and they want their parents to be happy and proud of them. Even if I canÁt keep the twins in Catholic school throughout their education, I know they have the greatest start they could have in life. Ramona Denmark is the mother of two students in Sacred Heart School in Pinellas Park, Fla. Sacred Heart is one of two schools in the Diocese of St. Petersburg that adopted the Notre Dame ACE Academies model for a comprehensive university-school partnership in 2012. For those interested, leaders of the Notre Dame ACE Academies initiative can explain its innovative reading program, its dual focus on two goals: college and heaven,Á finances, and more. Contact Bill Schmitt at
or 574-631-3893. Author s Note: For Catholic Schools Week, I ve been asked to speak to my parish congregation about why, as parents, we chose to send our kids to Catholic school. While my testimony spoke about our Catholic school specifically, I have changed the name to reflect what I think is common to most Catholic schools. Here was my answer. á It was years ago, but it seems as clear as if it were yesterday. I was talking with my dad when he stopped me short. He looked me square in the eyes and simply, but firmly said, ÁIÁm proud of what you do, but I love you for who you are. Are you listening? IÁm proud of what you do, but I love you for who you are. Á I donÁt recall the circumstances that prompted him to say that or my sheepish response, but IÁll never forget how special it made me feel. This wasnÁt the first time my dad said this. Nor would it be the last. Growing up, my parents made abundantly clear that to get anywhere in life you need to set clear goals, have a strong work ethic and be honest with God and yourself.
And being raised by a school superintendent, English teacher and two sisters aspiring to become teachers, you can only guess the value we placed on education. So between my home and my local public school, there were high expectations to work hard, learn and succeed. But that was not all. I was taught that while accomplishments matter and success is important, achievement uninformed by faith, purpose, character will ultimately be hollow. As my dad said, Á ItÁs not just about what you do, itÁs about who you are. Á It was a philosophy I have never forgotten and still value deeply. Well, time has passed. I am now married with two young wonderful children. And three years ago, we had to make an important decision. In the west Metro, arguably a hub of the finest public and private school education in the country, where would we send our daughters? Instead of schools immersing students in language or the arts, we opted for a different type of immersion: Catholic Immersion. We chose to send our girls to the Catholic school here. And we couldnÁt be more satisfied. Now, I can recite for you the data about the robust performance of ourá Catholic schoolá students on standardized tests or the enviable student-teacher ratio. I could impress you with the diverse class offerings in art, music andá Spanish or the deeply skilled and compassionate staff. I could even dazzle you with the Smart Board technology, iPad utilization and cutting edge internet based teaching tools. I could Á but that vital data is proudly displayed on the website, in the brochures or available on a school tour. Instead, let me share with you the true spirit At my daughters Catholicá school, a child once shy to speak much in class is soon beaming while reading prayer intentions at the School Mass you may receive a smiling email from a teacher telling you your daughter looked up at him and said, ÁGod bless youÁ because he picked her favorite game in gym class. you find parents who tow a tractor hundreds of miles simply to pull a school float in the localá parade.
At my daughters á Catholic school, you may find your child spontaneously apologizing at the end of the day forá something she said at the beginning of the day simply because of what she learned from the priest sá homily at the School Mass you encounter staff, parents and children enthusiastically showing up to pack food for the hungry, rake leaves for the elderly and plant pinwheels for peace At my daughters Catholic school, teachers approach you about the right book or exercise for your child, the principal knows your kids and cheers them on by name, and the priestá offers wise support at just the right time. you may find a child at home thoughtlessly humming a hymn or telling you an interesting fact about St. Benedict, or at the school Talent Show telling corny jokes or belting out FrozenÁs ÁLet It GoÁ staff, parents and students pray for and rally around a spouse who has been sick, a baby soon to be born, or a sixth grader saying goodbye You see, our Catholic schoolá is more than just a school, it is a deeply invested community. A community. And in a world grown increasingly cold and harsh, a community of faith and warmth is an immeasurably important springboard in these young kids lives. And in ours. Undoubtedly, this school prepares the mind. But by God, it prepares the soul as well. To paraphrase my dad, Á Catholic schools are á proud of what our kids do, but love them for who they are. Á If you are considering a school community for your child that is rich in academics and rooted in faith, please consider calling, visiting or touring a Catholic school. Believe me, you wonÁt be disappointed. * Featured image courtesy of *Second image courtesy of
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