Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Thursday, February 22, 2018

There are so many subjects that divide parents, and I think choosing to pay for an education is right near the top.

My husband and I made a last-minute decision about four years ago to send our daughter to a Catholic school. Even though she had been in formal daycare, she had been terrified at the kindergarten orientation at the local public school, so we had to reconsider our options, looking at all of the elements.

I can assure you, we haven’t looked back. Not only are there no regrets, but we are incredibly glad the situation presented itself.

In fact, last spring we watched our younger daughter blossom in the prekindergarten program at the same Catholic school.

But, there are those close friends and neighbors, and even co-workers, who awkwardly ask directly or indirectly, why we pay when public school is free.

In a nutshell, this is one of those times when that saying, "You get what you pay for," actually stands for something positive.

In our case, our daughter was one of the youngest members of her kindergarten class of fewer than 20 children when she went to the Catholic school; at the kindergarten orientation at the public school, we learned that as many as 28 kids were scheduled to be in that class. That’s quite a student/teacher ratio difference.

Maybe we would agree that our daughters would get a similar education no matter which school they attended, since an approved curriculum is just that.

But, we’re paying for our daughter to be an important member of a community, not just another student. She enjoys a sense of intimacy, warmth and security every day.

And, she’s absolutely benefited from the teachers’ aides in kindergarten and first grade, additional staffing that, to our knowledge, didn’t exist in the public school in kindergarten and first grade.

This doesn’t mean we frown upon the local school; it just means that we like the added attention our daughter receives.

The enrollment at our children’s school, which serves prekindergartners to eighth graders, is just around 200. So, when our older daughter walks down the halls, she’s friendly with students of all ages. Teachers know her by name. Security? You bet. And, we can see that she is building self-confidence.

The religious element certainly is a benefit. At age 5½, our daughter was reminding us to say grace at dinner. Praying at night before bed became more natural instead of being something Mom wanted her to do.

Our income changed this year, so I was on a mission to cut costs: cable, insurance, phones, you name it. We didn’t touch or even reconsider the tuition for the Catholic school, though. It’s a commitment we’ve made and stand by. For as long as we can, we’ll keep her in this community.

We can see that our daughter who recently finished the prekindergarten program is not just a face in the crowd and not just the "younger sister." She likes being recognized and smiled at by teachers and students and their families. She, too, is thriving in this spiritual community.

If paying tuition means our girls learn a lot more about themselves and their peers because they feel inspired and safe as part of a school "family" as opposed to a student body, it’s worth every dime.

Sharon Moore Shatas of Hamden is the mother of two children who attend St. Stephen School in Hamden.