When I think about educating children today, I believe that, in addition to providing a safe environment in which to learn, surrounding children with a staff and faculty who is experienced, educated and dedicated is important. Creating a curriculum that has a strong core, but offers a rich variety of extras and has the latest and greatest of everything the school needs, ensures that each child is given a firm foundation on which to stand through life's challenges. I believe this can only be achieved through the infusion of faith and education.
As a child learns about God and His creation, he sees this creation in every person, every object, every feeling and experience he encounters. Each thought, each decision a child must make should be influenced by both faith and lessons learned. Children should be surrounded by reminders of faith to help guide and direct them. Christian-based private schools are focused on providing this kind of environment for children so that their faith is part of their everyday life at home and at school.
While taking a stroll though the halls of Sacred Heart School, for example, evidence of the marriage of religion and academics can be seen in the hallways and in the classrooms, in the cafeteria and on the playground, in the students and in the adults who work with them.
Alongside reading books and laptop computers, sit prayer books and scripture verses. One bulletin board emphasizes the steps of the writing process while another tracks the progress of the current missions appeal. Teachers correct a student's posture, handwriting and math problems at the same time they explain how to treat each other with respect and love through Jesus' example. While students are asked to erase white boards or empty the trash to promote classroom responsibility, they are also asked to pray for someone who is ill or struggling and to provide something for a child here or abroad who does not have what he or she needs. While they learn about concrete concepts, they also learn about those things through which we simply experience by faith alone. It is this opportunity for children to learn, one with the other, that makes them whole.
The faculty and staff at Sacred Heart School prepare students to be active members of their families, their communities, their church and their world. They are asked to actively participate in many activities at the school such as weekly liturgies, the Christmas Pageant, the Big Buddy Program and many more. They learn valuable skills such as public speaking and leadership.
They take with them "intangibles" such as ethics, tolerance, perseverance, volunteerism and hard work. They have a strong sense of self-worth because they know they are loved by God, their parents and by the adults and children with whom they interact daily. They can easily recognize when someone or some group has a need and will rise to the occasion to supply what is needed, even if it is only to pray with or for them or offer a kind word. In short, they are active citizens in this world as they long for the day when they will become citizens of heaven.
Local Christian schools:
- Belleville Mennonite School- 935-2184 or http://www.bellevillemennoniteschool.org
- Juniata Mennonite School- 463-2898 or http://www.jmsonline.org
- Mifflin County Christian Academy- 543-2200 or http://mccaeagles.net
- Sacred Heart School- 248-5351 or www.sacredheartschool.com
Can children develop these special skills and characteristics outside of the Christian-based school environment? Absolutely, but only if their parents provide the same opportunities for witnessing and practicing faith as a faith-based school provides, which can be a challenge in today's society. When it becomes increasingly difficult for parents to balance the two worlds, secular and spiritual, Christian-based schools can provide a place to support them in their primary role as educators.
I encourage all families, especially those with children who are Kindergarten-age or younger, to visit a Christian-based school before choosing a school for their children. Although these schools charge tuition, which may discourage families, know that they all offer scholarships and financial aid to help meet every family's budget. Local school districts are required to provide families free busing to private schools (within a 10-mile radius of the district) as well, so transportation is rarely an issue. This investment in a child's education will pay dividends for life!
Susan Parzanese is the director of finance and development at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, 9 N. Brown St., Lewistown. For more information about Sacred Heart School, call Parzanese at 447-2002, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the school's website at www.sacredheartschool.com.