Since our soon-to-be First Grader will now be attending a Charter school, it has been a great sadness for me that he will not be able to have the same Catholic School experience as our older son. Why?
1. Being able to talk about God. It is a lot easier to pass on the Faith when you can converse openly about God. Where you can pray. If someone is sick, the class prays for them. Heaven forbid that should happen in a Public School! And actually it is probably a good thing they don't, since they might pray to the "Goddess," or Allah, or teach the latest New-Age, quasi-Asian religious technique. Yes, I know that is an unpopular opinion among my other devout peers, but society is actively anti-Christian. Anything but Judeo-Christianity is preferred. I personally prefer my child learn to pray and talk about God correctly then learn it from people who find Christianity (or Catholicism) evil. We had Mass every week in our school. The priests and nuns were active there. Saints were seen (in statue form) and actively discussed. There were crucifixes! The older kids actually opened Bibles **gasp**. You can't do that in a Public/Charter school, because, you know...the Bible is hate speech.
2. Love. The signs in the First Grade said "God is Love." The kids cling to the teachers with love, which is actually allowed to be expressed. Now, maybe in public school a hug is still allowed - who knows, but here Love was everywhere. My son's 8th grade class, of 14 kids, did a fund-raiser for Cystic Fibrosis and made $1500. They collected hundreds of gifts for needy children for Christmas. Yeah, you can still say that word in Catholic School. The class adopted a family for Christmas and went, with their teacher as Santa Claus, to their house with dozens of gifts - toys, supermarket gift cards, clothes, etc. It was a very special event. This family had nothing and it was important that they receive love too.
3. Family atmosphere. In our small school, which not all Catholic schools are, of course, everyone knew each other. My kindergartner knew the names of the kids in middle school, and vice versa. Dismissal was over in 10 minutes. Teachers were able to really give kids more attention if needed. While big schools can have bigger sports teams and amenities, and can pay teachers better, small schools are a family. Kids don't get "lost." Teachers are really in contact with the parents. And parents are really expected to contribute of themselves. It is not good enough just to say, "Oh, someone else will take care of it." I think one of the reasons our school did not survive is that half of the kids were not Catholic, and their families were not committed to the parish and the school. Many were there by state scholarship for needy families. Most of the committed parishioners moved to newer neighborhoods and our school was not the same again. I also think the K-8th Grade set-up is best. It seems to keep the kids grounded. They have to take a leadership role in the school and are expected to have responsibilities. Middle schools don't seem to have that same expectation.
Of course, this is my view. I'm sure many will say I'm just sentimental. That their experience was not positive, or their school was not run with charity and love, etc. But our experience has been positive and I'm sad my little one will not experience it. But we are determined that our new school will get our best, and that we will help our son to get the best education possible. Really I think that is all we can do.