Our five children, each experiencing a combination of traditional schooling and homeschooling, eventually reached high school age. We felt the best option for them was to attend a private, single-sex Catholic high school. My husband and I felt that the overall experience of high school was important – the broader range of social and academic offerings were an important aspect of our children’s formation.
One of the concerns about a Catholic school is that if it’s going to call itself Catholic, it ought to be authentically so. And most of us have discovered that often that is not the case. When my eighth grade son informed me that Father B told the class that the Church says “some abortions are permitted,” I was not amused. Of course, as I explained that this was not true, I was met with rolling eyes, and, “Mom, he’s a priest!” I explained ectopic pregnancy, which I assumed was what this guy was talking about, but sadly, it was not the only time I would have to elaborate on half-truths or outright errors.
Actually, the boys’ school was pretty good and improved greatly by the time they younger boys attended. The girls’ school, on the other hand, was influenced by secular feminism and “Spirit of Vatican II” theology. My girls had a strong foundation, however, and a Joan-of-Arc willingness to defend the faith. Nevertheless, it was frustrating to have to deal with an agenda that ran contrary to Church teaching, even as the school provided the trappings of authentic Catholicism. The beautiful chapel was always the focal point of the school tour, even as the staff assured visitors that all beliefs were respected. All beliefs except traditional Catholic teaching. In many ways, homeschooling never ends. The errors in teaching the faith that take place in the school are opportunities for family discussion and correction. This is normal, whether you homeschool or not – the most important education takes place in the home.
Another consideration, pro and con, is socialization. Although it was at times horrifying to discover what some teenagers are up to, it was important to become aware of it and to discuss these things with the kids. They themselves would express concern over what some of their friends were doing. I have never been inclined to shelter my children too much, as I have witnessed that backfire on more than one occasion. My hope was always to train them to live in the world without being of it. Nevertheless, there were times when I heard things that could curl my hair and I was grateful to be able to talk about these thing with them.
I can’t say that everything we ever did was genius. Public school, homeschool, private school… We made the best choices we could at the time based on what we thought was in our children’s best interest and also what worked for us. Whatever schooling choices are made, I think the key is to be very involved with our kids – to know their friends, to be aware of their lessons, to be acquainted with their teachers. Show them that their Catholic faith is integral to their development as happy and healthy individuals. If we lay a strong foundation, it will be very satisfying to witness what they build upon it.