It’s Catholic Schools Week!!

Question: why Catholic Schools?

Answer: Well how about another question: what is it like to transfer 4 children into Notre Dame Academy during the middle of the pandemic?  Here I can be frank: transitioning a family of four children out of the public school system into Catholic schools will (for most) on some level require sacrifice, and is certainly a privilege, but the term that most aptly captures this education: a blessing.

For us, the pillar of our decision was not test scores, class size, and the like (these are a plus, believe me!), but in that most important thing, the faith of our children.  True, we can’t rely solely on a school to impart the Faith to our kids, but my wife and I have witnessed subtle and moving transformations among each of our children.  Whether it is the beautiful meal-prayer my first grader now shares with us at dinner, whether it is my second grader chiming in after Sunday mass—“you know, we talked about that Bible passage in my class!”, I have been impressed that the spiritual education at NDA is of substance and gives meaning to the entire experience. The events of this year lay bare the confusion and turbulence of our times, and I am confident that at NDA, our children will find assistance in finding their spiritual compass to guide the way.

In terms of academics, NDA has been nothing short of stellar.  I could cite our school’s superb student to teacher ratio, but what has truly set this education apart for our family is the caring and focused attention shown by its teachers.  Whether your child naturally excels in some areas, or perhaps struggles a bit in others—the teachers at NDA clearly devote themselves to helping each child reach his or her academic potential.

The education extends beyond academics into the arena of personal formation-impressing upon our children the need for human virtues.  Our children have received reminders on the importance of physical presentation (we may or may not have let a certain second grader attend school with “bed-head”, but we were so refreshed to hear that he was instructed to spend a bit more time combing his hair!).  They have been taught the importance of organizing their work and maintaining a schedule—life lessons we may not have expected, but which point to the formative mission of Catholic education.

Finally, the community.  Of course, this has been flavored by the inescapable distancing of the great pandemic.  Yet while we look forward to future parties and gatherings where we can grow connected with our school families, we have seen each of our children embraced whole-heartedly by the family that is NDA, even in the midst of this strange year.  We can already attest to the number of active and dedicated families, whose children share many interests with those of our own-be it the outdoors or athletics-but who also share a deeper bond in the Faith.

So why Catholic schools?  For starters, I would encourage anyone on the fence with this question to search his or her heart for the answer.  For us, this was a decision that required not a small amount of deliberation.  The answer—affirmed by our experience of this year—lay in the fruits of Notre Dame Academy: the spiritual, academic, and personal formation of our children.  Is it an investment? Yes it is.  But the investment’s yield is also the most important thing.

Matt Johnson, who with his wife Amanda, has children in grades 5th, 2nd, 1st, and preschool.