So How is Catholic School Treating Your Family?

Catholic School Classroom (1)

Photo copyright Lisa A. Schmidt; NCSW banner courtesy National Catholic Education Association

So how is Catholic school treating your family? That’s the question my husband and I have received a lot since enrolling our oldest child in Catholic school rather than homeschooling her this year. Given it’s National Catholic Schools Week and our chosen Catholic school also celebrates its 100th day of school, the time seemed right to offer a response to that FAQ.

The quick highlights? In short, my husband and I are very happy with our decision. We really (really!) like the school and are continually impressed with the principal’s dedication to providing a solid Catholic education for the students. Additionally, the parish priest has a strong spiritual presence over the school, and collectively, the school and parish are positively reinforcing the faith we are attempting to pass on to our children at home. More positives: small class sizes, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in the classrooms (which probably only means something to fellow CGS-enthusiasts!), the school Masses are reverent and joyful, and the school has been mindful in keeping our daughter engaged academically in areas where she’s accelerating. She is thriving as a whole person — spiritually, academically, and socially. It wasn’t that she was unhappy or struggling academically in the homeschool environment, it’s just she is an extremely extroverted child who l-o-v-e-s school, and it does my soul good to see how well this new environment suits her.

**It just took a bit of a journey getting to this point.**

As I reflect, here are a few thoughts that rise to the surface regarding our family’s educational discernment toward Catholic education. It’s not an indictment on others’ choices, simply a reflection on ours.

Don’t Try to Shove a Square Peg into a Round Hole

Our city and its Catholic culture has a thriving homeschooling community, and I have much admiration for the homeschool way of life. I had the ability to see, up close and personal, the positive values that homeschooling affords many families. Upon further reflection, what I really craved was a life full of holy leisure, and I felt homeschooling was the one and only pathway to get it. But as much as I love the ideal of homeschooling, it took two years of living it to understand that I was simply not being called to it during this stage of life. I tried every trick in the book to make it so — changing around our home environment nearly every other week, mixing up our schedule to keep things fresh, PRAYING HARDER! in hopes of receiving more homeschooling mom graces, and spending more time around seasoned homeschooling moms. In the end, God wasn’t calling me down this pathway and that life of holy leisure was nowhere to be found. It was more like a life of holy stress, as in holy cow, Lisa is really stressed out. The school we eventually chose was not even on my radar until the Holy Spirit knocked me over the head via an Undoer of Knots novena (more to that story here). I was so married to the ideal of homeschooling that I was going to make it work come hell or high water … making myself miserable in the process. And ouch, maybe my family, too. Whatever your situation, don’t be so married to your ideal that you miss the other great resources under your nose.

Just the Facts, Ma’am 

There were family members who didn’t understand our decision to homeschool; now I have friends who don’t understand our decision to send our children to Catholic school. Education decisions are prudential ones between husband, wife, and God, so leave the extended family and neighbors out of it. At the end of the day, someone will have something negative to say about every option you consider. Do your own research, talk to trusted sources, figure out what’s really important to you, and then go ask good questions of qualified resources.

Not sure what questions to ask? Kathryn from Team Whitaker helped us get our thoughts churning. Here’s her most helpful post on 10 questions to ask when applying to Catholic school. Here’s her equally helpful follow-up of 5 questions Catholic school parents should be asking the principal.

While touring schools and interviewing principals, we structured many questions from Kathryn’s advice. Our experience with our chosen school has largely been what we expected because of the principal’s responses to them. He didn’t sugarcoat stuff simply to get us in the door writing tuition checks. Truthfully, he sold us by not trying to sell us. We had heard so many opinions about how watered-down the faith is in our local Catholic school system. We don’t claim each is a blue ribbon school, but with the one we chose, we have been very pleased with the Catholic experience. Bottom line, we had to do the research and interview schools ourselves. If you want to get to know someone, you don’t solely rely on what others have told you. Same goes for school selection.


I’m a student of the Benedictine way, and a key lesson I’ve learned from St. Benedict stems from his teachings on the vow of stability. Stability refers to the importance of community and commitment in life. For monks and nuns, it refers directly to a commitment to the monastery where they will live for the rest of their lives. We the laity are not members of a monastic order, of course, but we can still make a vow of stability to our families and faith communities. My husband and I were spiritual vagabonds for a few years, and that took its toil. We can look back and see how our journey makes sense (sort of), but now it’s time for us to settle in and commit to this new school community. There’s an inner peace with our decision that had not been present at any other point in the journey.

If you’re still in the exploratory stage about your children’s education, here’s a key point that took awhile to sink in: Don’t make a vocation out of discernment. At some point, you need to commit to something. This isn’t to say you can’t change plans if your chosen path isn’t meeting the needs of your family, but pray about it, and the Holy Spirit will show you. He will. He was showing me for a long time, yet I clung on to what I wanted. My inability to close some doors prevented me from seeing the ones God was gently opening for our family.

Shall I close with the same question I opened with: So how is Catholic school treating your family? 

Copyright 2016 Lisa A. Schmidt


About Author

Lisa Schmidt writes at with her husband Joel. A proud Iowan, the Schmidts reside in Des Moines where Lisa is a full-time at-home mom. She also supports her husband in his deacon ministries for the Diocese of Des Moines. At The Practicing Catholic, Lisa enjoys writing about the things that bring her great joy: the Catholic faith, her family, fine arts, and good food.


  1. I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear how well it’s going for y’all. Hooray! The thing that really struck me the most was this, “Educations decisions are prudential ones between husband, wife and God…” Yes, a thousand times yes. One must pray, discern and then choose the right path, involving those people that are closest to the student. Brava Lisa!

  2. My parents were products of catholic schools. I attended Catholic schools 4-12. My older son was Catholic school all the way k-12. My younger son was Catholic school k- 2/3s of 4th grade and went back to Catholic school for High school (now a Sophomore). My story is that we moved when the elder was ready to start 7th grade and the younger 2nd grade. It was the perfect place for older bother, but younger brother never was able to find his fit in the small school. He had struggled socially in k-2 at the old school.

    Things came to head around Valentines Day in 4th grade and the principal told me “I don’t know what to do with (him).” Quite unhappy, I decided she just did not want to deal with him even though we had meetings, our son was in counseling, etc. So we enrolled him in the local public school. As I had a job outside the home and my son craved the social atmosphere, home schooling was not a viable option for our family. Fortunately he thrived in the public school. We had to enroll him in Religious education classes where he made new friends. (We switched to the parish we live in, rather than the open parish we enrolled for school) Luckily I don;t fell like he lost too much of the Catholic education part but am I ever happy he is back in a Catholic high school where the values are promoted each day, Religion class is mandatory and prayer in school is a normal thing.

    Like the author of the article, I think you need to do what is right for your family and even individual child. Don’t hang on to one solution because it is supposed to be the best. I mourned putting him in public school. My son was ahead of his classmates in public school but was soon able to get into the advance classes. They had better non-bulling rules as well and more kids so he could find a niche. He has encountered some of the boys he had trouble with in 4th grade, but he is better equipped to deal with them (or ignore them.)

    • Hi Maggie! Thank you for sharing your story. It’s a great testimony on how to follow the child and his/her needs. I’m glad your son is doing so well. Continued blessings to your family!

  3. Thank you, Lisa, for sharing your journey from homeschooling to Catholic School. God has led me down a very similar path with my oldest child, and your article truly blessed me with renewed peace about sending her to Catholic school. Despite sending my oldest to preschool for a couple of years, I became extremely committed to homeschooling my preschool age kids when she was 4. I really grappled with the decision to continue homeschooling beyond preschool when she was turning 6. I loved everything about the “holy leisure” that I found teaching my kiddos and just being home together. I had no desire to go back to the out-of-home preschool experience, and still felt a sense of guilt for sending my timid girl out so young. I really identified with my newfound “homeschool mom” identity and, for myself, wanted nothing more than to continue homeschooling my precious, sensitive, and caring daughter.

    After much discernment, my husband and I concluded that she would attend our local Catholic elementary school for kindergarten. The decision saddened me completely, because of my lingering “preschool guilt” and my strong connection with the “homeschool mom” identity. Despite my sadness, though, I found peace in that decision. My daughter has a deep-rooted desire for activity and love for people, but could be extremely timid and sensitive in large settings. My husband convinced me that she needed a “safe” growing place to find her independence and courage. She also had an inspiring and genuine faith. I knew God was ready for her (even at the young age of 6) to start living her “mission” and letting her light shine among peers at school.

    Now, as she wraps up her first grade year, my husband and I are amazed by the confident, loving, courageous, and faith-filled little girl that comes home from school each day. I love the weekly school mass, the community, the uniforms, and the chance to talk through any challenging situations or different perspectives she encounters each day at school. I do not feel that my job homeschooling her is over. Rather, the job has changed. I am blessed to have other wonderful people on my team, helping her to grow into her true self. Who knows what the future holds for our family and the decisions we will continue to make about education. For now, however, I am grateful for our Catholic school experience, which truly enriches our family life.

    Thank you, again! God bless you and your family.

    • Hi Maribel!

      Thank you, kindly, for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful reply. I feel we are walking very similar paths! I also mourned (sometimes still) the fact that God wasn’t calling me to homeschool, but I see how well my daughter is thriving now and that helps the sense of loss. We had a school auction over the weekend, and one of my daughter’s teachers told me a story of how my daughter was so joyful over getting to experience her first fire drill because she never experienced those in homeschool. It’s the little things, I guess, that make both her heart and mine glad! :)

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