Back to School – Our Last Send-Off
by Rob and Kathy Hayes
Today I spent several hours in my minivan listening to the radio, sitting in DC area traffic after a great day with some of my daughters and grandchildren. There were so many advertisements on the radio for Back to School sales that I started thinking about moving our “baby” back to college for her senior year. This is the 25th year of sending one of our “FabFive” back to school, so there have been lots of school supplies, back to school nights, Parents Weekends, and school payments. We have experienced not only the start of school from elementary school to high school to college, but also a variety of school types – public, parochial, and homeschool. All stages and types of schooling have required us to live out our call to be the first teachers of our children.
Since sending our eldest to kindergarten in 1994, we have observed that traditional school isn’t the preferred type of school for all families and parents seem to put a lot of prayer, thought, research and time into deciding what school style will be best for their family. This responsibility to educate our children is acknowledged in the final blessing in a child’s baptism, which states that the parents “will be the first teachers of their children in the ways of faith. May they be also the best of teachers, bearing witness to the faith by what they say and do.”
Early in our marriage, we decided to send our children to Catholic schools for a variety of reasons, but mainly to complement what we were teaching at home and to have consistency during our moves. As a military family, we felt that if our children had to move and adjust to new schools, at least in a Catholic school they would have the foundation of faith in common with their new classmates. Yes, Catholic schools can be unaffordable for many families, but more than twenty years ago we decided to stay in a cozy home and live frugally. However, given rising tuitions, I am not sure that would work nowadays.
As we moved often, getting all five children into catholic schools didn’t always happen. We experienced public schools for kindergarten and high school and we were blessed to have principals and teachers who used the 10 Commandments as their guide. We also had to make a prayerful decision when public school was not a good option and the catholic school didn’t have any openings. God led us to a year of homeschooling using a rigorous program. Each style of schooling required involvement by us.
Reflecting on many years of schooling leads me to an observation about schools, education, and our families. Parents are putting a lot more research and prayer into what style of education will be best for their children and family. Homeschooling has become a viable option for many more families in our current generation as there are many more resources available to guide mom (or dad) in teaching their children. In all situations, it requires active participation and vigilance to meet our responsibilities as parents to educate our children
So, as we reach the back to school season—no matter what format or level—it is typical to experience a range of emotions and change in routine and pace. We experience anticipation, excitement, and perhaps anxiety. For us, thinking back on a quarter century of sending kids to school, we have an abundance of memories and gratitude for the way the Lord has blessed our family.
Keep the Faith.