As a child, I grew up across the street from two schools that were separated only by a public pool; one Catholic and one public. As Catholics (but far from practicing), the decision as to what school I would attend was easy for my parents. And so it was, that for eight years I would wait until the morning’s last bell to race out the door and get to school.
I always looked fondly back on my time at St. Francis. In my head, I felt certain that part of what I loved about attending it was the proximity. I never had to bus, I could pop home for lunch, and I could sleep in much later than some of my friends who had to walk from much further away.
When it came time to send my children to school, I was surprised that I found myself struggling with the decision. The choices of school boards and different styles of education were far greater than anything my parents ever had to consider. I even briefly toyed with homeschooling my girls, but then flashbacks of crying at the kitchen table doing math with my Dad sobered me up quick.
We now live in a small village on the outskirts of Ottawa, our closest school, the one that would allow my kids to race out the door at the last minute and pop home for lunch was public. The nearest Catholic school meant busing for an hour a day. I agonized over the decision. In the end though community and proximity won out over faith. After all, I reasoned, how different could it be?
It turns out, a lot. After two years, I knew I had made the wrong decision and we switched our girls to the Catholic board. Time tends to romanticize notions in our head, and watching what was missing in my own girls’ education, quickly made me realize that it wasn’t living five minutes from the school that made my Catholic education so great, it was the sense of community within it.
Catholic teachers don’t just teach reading, writing and arithmetic; they weave values into every lesson and every interaction. Part of the Catholic teachers’ mandate is to instil and model values such as fairness,compassion, respect, concern for social justice and the environment into their classrooms. It’s not just my daughters that benefit from this, but the society they interact with.
I’m currently living with two headstrong and opinionated young ladies determined to change the world. As their mother, I’m obviously tempted to take full credit, but I know where they spend a lot of their time, so I’d like to thank all the Catholic teachers who have touched their lives, and our son’s life to this point. Your dedication in weaving values into the classroom is paying off in spades in our household. If you’re currently struggling with the same decision I was faced with, I encourage you to take a closer look at the Catholic Education system in Ontario, particularly how Catholic Teachers are incorporating Lessons for Life into the curriculum. You can also join the conversation with them on Facebook and Twitter.