… For a few months now I’ve been trying to get my son into MACS, the local Catholic school system here in Charlotte. It’s been no small task. The paperwork alone took almost 3 weeks to organize. I’m still waiting to hear about the status of my financial aid application but unless some miracle happens and they say “Hey, you’re so poor we’ll cover 95% of your son’s tuition” it’s still highly unlikely I can eek out the tuition cost each month. But I at least have to try.
When your nine old son asks you if he can go to Catholic school , you listen and find out why. A little back story…
My son started his education at a very small elementary school in a rural part of North Carolina. It was evident after a few years there that the school was not equipped well and sadly underfunded. The resources weren’t there to help challenge kids to excel. We both loved the school but as middle school approached I decided we needed to find a better school with more learning opportunities. It was a hard choice, especially since it wasn’t the fault of the school or the staff. They did the best the could with what they had but as kids get older they need more rigorous academic challenges.
Since I knew that private school was not in the budget, I sought to move in the best public school district the area had to offer. And I found it. As far as public schools go, my son is assigned to the best performing ones in the state. They have funds for extracurricular activities, the arts, sports, and to hire teachers with master degrees in their subject of teaching. What’s not to love?
Yup, money does not buy everything. The kids at these schools are affluent, extremely so. Not all, mind you, but the majority are. These schools are assigned to a wealthy area of Charlotte. You can either afford to live here or you can’t. I can’t. I got lucky and managed to find a house in the middle of nowhere just on the school’s assigned border. It seemed, by the way everything fell into place, that God was answering all my prayers.
Living in this area has put me in intimate contact with people I normally wouldn’t be close with. Rich people. I’ve come to learn that people with money, lots of money, are … um, well… have very different ideas about parenting. Less restrictive, if you will. These kids have everything; cell phones, ATVs and dirt bikes, computers and TV’s in their rooms [with cable], all the latest electronic gadgets with unrestricted use and total free reign of the house. Let me remind you they are nine and ten years old – not teenagers. The parents I’ve met are rarely around, from what I can tell. Several times I’ve let my son hang out at a friend’s house only to pick him later to learn that the parents left hours ago, usually right after drop off. A teenage sibling is in the only adult in the house; or in a few instances, a maid or no one at all.
Maybe it’s just me and I am über restrictive. But these things don’t strike me as normal. But than again, maybe they are and I’m just out of it. Whenever I allow The Boy to have friends over I stay in the house because if something were to happen I’d be responsible, and liable… not my maid. Not that I have a maid.
At his old school we never had these social problems. My concerns were purely academic. The kids were respectful, as well as the teachers.
Now it’s entirely reversed. The academics are excellent but socially things are wrong. The kids are more worldly, if you will. They swear and openly talk about sex and the things they are exposed to on TV and the internet. They are more aggressive, not violent but pushy and don’t respond well to class rules. And they bully.
But his main reason for wanting to go to Catholic school he says is that some kids in his class refuse to say the pledge of allegiance because it contains the word “God”. At school functions every religion is represented except Christianity. He longer feels comfortable with his faith and several kids in his class tell him there is no such thing as God and challenge him about Catholicism. Daily. He’s just tired and feeling beat down by it all.
Perhaps, I’m being entirely unfair. Maybe it has everything to do the age and nothing to do with how affluent a family or a school is. The kids are older now and at that age where they start questioning things around them. Maybe these questions and challenges about religion are perfectly age appropriate with maturing children’s intellectual curiosity. But at nine is this normal for him to be challenged daily about religion? I ask because I don’t know.
And the aggressive behavior is probably just par for the course with older kids, right? Maybe I just need to accept that kids can be mean and cruel. It’s part of their development and how they learn how things work in society and I need to chill. Sometimes I think I’m too over protective with unrealistic ideals. I certainly don’t want to coddle my child so that he’s socially ill equipped to handle difficult people in his adulthood. People can indeed suck very much and he needs to get used to that.
Either way, I need to address the issue that my son is spiritually and emotionally tired from the constant badgering about his beliefs and as his parent I have to act. So I have begun the arduous task of hoping and praying Catholic school can become a reality.
And yes, I know there will be non-Catholic children at Catholic school but at least there won’t be the chronic pestering, I hope anyway. At least he won’t be in the minority. Always the realist; however, I am preparing him for the likely chance that Catholic school is not going to happen, at least not quite yet. He may have to wait a bit longer.
So I decided the best way to handle this was to help my son have a bit more confidence to deal with these challenges to his beliefs by making sure he knows his faith well enough to defend it. That’s a tall order for a nine year old kid. Most adults don’t even know their faith well enough to defend it. I’ve been asked loads of questions about Catholicism and have had to honestly say, “I don’t know off the top of my head, let me get back to you”. I’ve told my son that’s a perfectly acceptable response. I’ve also asked around for some good reading materials for kids and pre-teens that address these very questions there friends may have for them.
Here is what some people smarter than me suggested. Ian Rutherford who runs Aquinas and More Catholic Goods and all around man about town, Brandon Vogt, who blogs here and writes here, both gave a solid thumbs up for these reading materials.
The Prove It! apologetics series for youth by Amy Welborn – ages pre-teen and teenager
If you know of any more apologetics material geared to pre-teens and teens let me know, please.
PS- And here is a little something for the grown-ups out there.