How to Choose the Right Catholic High School for Your Children

I suppose twenty-eight years involved in small Catholic schools qualifies me as an experienced educator. Or at least it has provided me with plenty of experience in listening to parents and their children on the subject of “How to Choose a School.” Or perhaps “How Not to Choose a School.”

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Experience might bring some wisdom about things but it sure does bring a great deal of pain. Like Agamemnon’s war prize, Cassandra, I find myself similarly cursed with a sort of knowledge of the future which brings no good because it is not believed until the events themselves have come to pass.

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As we learn from Herodotus,

It is the most hateful thing for a person to have much knowledge and no power.

How often do I hear the words of a parent regretting this or that educational choice made ten years earlier, but the unfortunate consequences of which have only recently played out. One parent laments,

I wish I had not sent her to that school.

And another,

I only wish I had known about a better school when my kids were still young enough to attend.

or,

The school was so good when I attended it, I assumed it was the same now!

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The correct choice of a school is difficult. And, unfortunately,  the consequences of a bad choice are difficult to undo.

The most common criteria that I hear from parents for choosing a school are something like the following (divided into spoken and unspoken criteria):

Common Spoken Criteria for Choosing a High School

1. I want my child to be happy, so I want her to make the choice of where to attend school.

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2. My child likes sports, so we are looking for a school with a wide variety of athletic offerings.

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3. My child wants to be an artist so we are looking for a school with a strong graphic arts program.

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4. My child wants to be a doctor so she is particularly interested in AP chemistry and Biology offerings.

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5. My husband went to St. John’s (which has a proud tradition of over 120 years!) and I went to St. Gertrude’s, so our sons will go to St. John’s and our daughters will attend St. Gertrude’s.

6. We think that technology in the classroom is important.

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7. My child learns in his own special way, so we are seeking a school which is able to accommodate his way of learning.

Common Unspoken Criteria for Choosing a High School

1. I want my child to attend a school which will benefit my own self image among my own colleagues and social peer groups.

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2. I want my child to attend a school which either reflects my own socio-economic class or which might even place my child in contact with a more affluent class.

3. Although being a Catholic is important to me, the main concern that I have for my son is that he will be successful.

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For what it is worth, I will offer ten criteria for choosing a high school that I think are a little more substantive.

Ten Criteria for Choosing the Right High School

  1. The school explicitly proposes the formation of the mind as its chief mission.
  2. The school claims to know how the formation of the mind is achieved through a non-elective course of studies.
  3. The school holds Theology as the Queen of the Sciences.Image result for theology queen of the sciences
  4. The school curriculum is essentially different from the secular high school curriculum, even in math and science.  Image result for common core
  5. The entire reading list is excellent. There is not a single work that students are compelled to read which is objectionable, senseless, or even simply mediocre.Image result for catcher in the rye
  6. The school day and schedule allows for a regular participation in the sacramental life of the Church.
  7. The school actively promotes the pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.
  8. The faculty appears to be educated with the same education that the school aims to impart.
  9. After spending a day visiting classes a parent would himself like to attend the school.
  10. The school community, board, faculty, parents and students support the vision of the school.

Now I am certain that you can think of some other criteria that are important as well, but these ten rise to my mind quickly. No school is perfect, but a parent needs to select a school for his children based on solid principles. This is the kind of choice which he is not likely to regret later.

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About marklangley

Academic Dean at The Lyceum (a school he founded in 2003, see theLyceum.org) Mark loves sacred music and Gregorian Chant and singing with his lovely wife, Stephanie, and their twelve children.
This entry was posted in catholic education, classical education, education and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to How to Choose the Right Catholic High School for Your Children

  1. Stephanie says:

    Great Article… so true. And the effects of a mediocre school in the area of truth, goodness and beauty, is
    displayed after graduation.

  2. Rebecca Pettigrew says:

    I’d love to have a shareable list of age-appropriate books recommended for each grade, K-8 and for 9-12. I have offered criticismand recommendations based upon my own limited knowledge, but would greatly appreciate a tried and true list of excellent books for developing excellent and virtuous young people.

  3. mike urban says:

    best. ever. blog on a Liberal Arts education and how to discern the right choices. People will still elect to have their children pick or choose for the wrong reasons and later regret it but with the truth presented to them as you have done, they will be completely armed and know, after reading, how best to see through the chaff.

  4. Pingback: How to Choose the Right Catholic High School for Your Children | When I Discovered Your Words

  5. Is there such a school anywhere?

  6. Regular Catholic Joe says:

    These are terrific aspirations but unrealistic for the 99%+ majority of Catholics not living in South Euclid, Ohio.

    The scant offerings nation-wide make so for most of us that we need to do the best we can with what is available in our area: provide substantial formation at home, work with the school of our Diocese (supporting our Bishop according to the command of Saints like Ignatius of Antioch), and most of all Do Not Fear — trust in God with Faith his Providence. Jesus has overcome the world!

    • As the article said, “No school is perfect, but a parent needs to select a school for his children based on solid principles.” While there may be few schools that meet all 10 criteria well, we can still apply these principles when looking for a school for our children.
      If the diocesan school contradicts these principles – and many of them do – we are not doing much good supporting such schools as they are. If anything, we should be working to change them.

  7. madelineblalock says:

    What do you if you can’t find this?!?

    • Jess says:

      Madeline, one option is to see if you can get to a Regina Caeli Academy!

      rcahybrid.org

    • Karen says:

      Don’t be afraid to homeschool! It is the best decision my husband and I ever made. Mother of Divine Grace distance learning program is accredited and offers an excellent Catholic Classical curriculum, parent training and classes, real-time face-to-face online classes, educational consultants to guide you through the program, and report cards. It has been a joy for our entire family to be a part of this school. The school has given my children a vibrant and informed faith, and has prepared them very well for college (Thomas Aquinas College). This is a sacrifice that you as parents will never regret!

  8. quidproquo says:

    If these principles are clear in parents’ minds, then they will begin to demand this kind of education from schools nearby. (I think it’s helpful to pretend you live out in pre-government, pre-diocese territory, and think of education as being accomplished by the effort of the parents, who pooled together their money to hire a teacher and build a schoolhouse on somebody’s land. You find like-minded families and do what you can to approach the goal. Homeschooling is always an option, or a co-op, or just form a posse and take over your local Catholic school!)

    Even articulating these principles out loud to your children is so formative. Tell them, “We have a duty as parents to procreate and educate our children. We have accomplished the procreation part for you, now what are the principles that guide the education side of things?” Show them this list! This will help them to clear the cobwebs of ‘education is career-prep’ or ‘what do I like to do’ and begin to think of their education as a formation of their mind to make it a sharp and ready tool for learning truth. Just knowing the true reason why we do anything guides our daily efforts even when the circumstances are less than perfect.

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  10. Anne-Marie says:

    Our parish school remade itself into such a school at the K-8 level several years ago, and we’re working toward adding a high school. Rebecca Pettigrew, its curriculum plan includes a long list of books by grade, starting on p. 49:
    http://www.stjeromes.lifeaftersunday.net/sites/stjeromes.lifeaftersunday.net/files/The_Educational_Plan_of_St._Jerome_Classical_School.pdf

  11. polylogism says:

    Mr. Langley, could you at some point explain what an education in beauty is? An education in truth seems comprehensible and academic enough, but how is an education in beauty supposed to work? Many seem to say that concentration on the arts in school is for the purpose of awakening wonder, making students realize metaphysical realities, and preparing them to accept the existence of God and more of their education. It might seem that an education in art is for the sake of ordering the passions since people say that is what good art does. Is that right? Should students learn to make beautiful things in order to do it throughout their lives? Can you make the case for this mysterious aspect of the education you promote?

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