Fox News has a report today on the contemporary surge of popularity in Catholic schools–especially those with a classical curriculum. Go here to read the report.
We have moved our parish school over to a classical curriculum and due to this, a dynamic young Headmaster and enthusiastic staff and parents, the school is thriving. Our enrollment this year is over 250 where in past years we were struggling to enroll 100. The projected growth is to have 450 enrolled within the next few years. Already several year groups have a waiting list.
Here is a thank you email from one of our parents:
I just want to say thank you and bravo! Our kids came home all week this week telling me about what they are learning in their classes and how engaging it was. Sophie was very enthused about the discussion in English about whether Hitler thought he was choosing good or evil. Madelyn gave me a detailed account of the great artwork Take the Money and Run, including the name of the museum that commissioned it. (Thank you, Narration!) All of us had fun discussing what math is and God’s relationship to it. (We think God is Order, so could you say God is Number?) Sophie told me about how Euclid (?) measured the circumference of the earth and it gave me goose bumps. Madelyn taught Sophie the Greek alphabet and had her translating words. Sophie tried to explain to me the Four Causes and I think maybe I grasp two of them. She also told me she never realized how interesting the Egyptians were and how she enjoyed studying pictures of the pyramids. John likes Latin! He thinks he’s going to enjoy pre-algebra! He said history is fun and told me all about which barbarians he was rooting for in the fall of Rome. All week, he had a peace about him. He did his homework quietly, meticulously, and efficiently. I could go on…
What are some of the factors in this success story? Various external circumstances helped. When everybody else was closing schools due to COVID we studied the statistics, consulted with healthcare professionals and opened our school with careful COVID prevention and containment policies and procedures. This was clearly easier to do with a small school and a high level of parental co operation. Second, as bad news of public school “woke” policies emerged over the last few years, parents were looking for schools that matched their Christian values. In our case several other factors have come together. First, we took the step of expanding our school from K4-8 to K4-12. Adding grades 9-12 allowed us to create a comprehensive classical curriculum which takes the children right up to graduation. It also allows parents to have all their kids at the same school–with a great family atmosphere–the older kids looking after their younger brothers and sisters in a whole school environment. This in contrast to the secular system where kids go off to high school increasingly cut off from their younger siblings and parental relationships.
Our “Upper School” (as we call it) also avoids some of the pitfalls of the typical American high school experience. Because it is small and family oriented we do not have the discipline problems you get with a bigger school. Teachers know the children from kindergarten upwards. Good relationships are established. Trust is built. The anonymity and loneliness (and unfavorable peer pressure) rampant in large high schools simply doesn’t exist in a smaller school.
A small school avoids many of the practical problems of the big American high school: large faculty with large salaries, large overheads, the demand for expensive extra curricular activities (that not all kids want or need) the pressure for constantly increasing enrollment and ever more expensive tuition to pay the bills. Small is beautiful.
We also avoid the tackier aspects of the American high school experience: cheerleaders in mini skirts waggling their pom poms, a snazzy Broadway musical, the “honor society”, Friday night football and the prom. Many of these venerable high school rituals began in innocence but have become simply another example of crass American culture in our schools. If we have avoided the traditional American high school money and time wasters (not to mention morality erodes) we also have no need for the more contemporary features of American high school life: the LGBTQ club, the intersex locker rooms, Critical Race Theory and institutionalized atheism.
The classical curriculum works because subjects are taught across the curriculum. Instead of each subject being compartmentalized: Algebra for 45 minutes then the bell rings and the students troop off to Spanish for 45 minutes before the bell rings and they troop off to history, then chemistry, then English…one teacher may teach theology, philosophy, literature, history, economics and Italian all in the aim of studying Dante. This not only helps students see the inter relationship of knowledge and culture, but it also means there is one teacher (and salary) instead of five. The other advantage is this type of school attracts really good, motivated teachers with great qualifications and extraordinary talent. Good teachers want to teach in a school like this. Who wouldn’t? Small classes, motivated, well behaved kids, supportive parents–it’s a teacher’s dream job.
Most of all we have made our school affordable. We have instituted the “Faithful Family Scholarship”. Very simply, parents pay tuition for their two oldest kids and all the rest come free. This policy has attracted committed, large Catholic families to join our parish and school from around the country. As we are in an area with an economically and socially challenging demographic we also have full scholarships available for children from low income, racial minority families.
Our little school (our Classical Catholic Academy) is not perfect because we’re not perfect, but we’re working hard to do what we can with what we have where we are. Building on this for the future is important. Therefore we are embarking on a building program. Our school buildings are 70 years old–crowded, leaking and in need of replacement. So this year we will be moving forward with plans for a new school build. Furthermore, we believe what we have accomplished could be a model for many other Catholic parochial schools that are struggling.
Go here to visit our website.