Like I told my mother last night, "Sometimes you ask the internet what is wrong with your screaming barfing baby, even though you kind of already know the answer and the comments aren't that helpful. But SOMETIMES you ask the internet something and THEY REALLY KNOW." Reading all your stories was so helpful! Even though we won't be making this decision for a while (and I do mean "we", as I had to reassure Phillip who wanted to know why I was asking the internet where to send our child to school without even asking him first) it's good to know this stuff.
By the way, my mother would like you all to know that she does not declare her Catholic school experience to be representative of all Catholic school experiences. That said, she went to school in the Olden Days and her nuns were big fat meanies. Also, she would appreciate it if I stopped writing about her without asking first.
Overall, after reading your comments, I have a much better impression and idea of what Catholic schools are about. I mean, as much as you can after reading Long and Terribly Interesting Reader Autobiographies. Which is a lot!
I don't really have any context for private school, other than my mom's and my aunt's stories about the nuns. Until we moved overseas I went to an elementary school where both of my parents taught previously and all the teachers knew me and treated me like a princess. When we moved overseas there was one available schooling option- the Single American School On Base where your parents worked, where all your friends went and where all your parents' friends worked. At my last school we had a couple of Italian students who paid through the nose to attend the American school (and after visiting a couple of Italian high schools aka giant communist concrete boxes of boredom, I would have too!) There were also lots of international schools in Italy, which I know about because we often kicked their butts all over their fancy basketball and volleyball courts. Those diplomats' sons and embassy workers' daughters were no match for the spawn of the American Military. I had strings of rotten teachers in my Department of Defense-funded public schools, but I also had a handful of truly stellar teachers. My chemistry and physics teacher conducted real estate deals from his desk while we goofed off (I am pretty sure he owned over half the town), but my senior English teacher had as much an impact on me as my best college professor. Also, when you are attending a small public high school dripping with government money, you get to do a lot of stuff. I was a member of pretty much everything there was to be a member of. I went all over Europe with sports teams and bands and speech and drama geeks. I mean, we went to VENICE for field trips.
As my friend Lee noted in the comments, it's true, I don't really know anything about the local public schools. I've heard vague unfavorable comments about the Seattle school system and many, much more specific comments about the district my mom and sister teach in, which Jack won't be going to anyway. There is always a huge struggle to pass school levies (although that may be true anywhere?) unless you are living in Rich Microsoft Suburbs or something. I know there are a couple of local standout high schools, but I know next to nothing about the elementary schools.
But the fact that my church has a little school next door has always been attractive to me, even before we had a kid. It shows that your church is active in the community and the annual school fund raiser is a HUGE neighborhood event. The school just recently started a pre-K program and while we haven't really decided anything, I think it's probably a given that we'll enroll Jack when it's time. We love our church community, we love our church, we already know a dozen of Jack's future classmates and all of that adds up to, what seems to me, an excellent place to be.
Also Catholic elementary school is really attractive. I've dropped things off at the school before and snooped around in the hallways looking at all the displays. Displays for All Saint's Day as well as President's Day. We like the idea of Mass and religious education as part of his normal school day. Again, we are fans of the community and the school itself seems to have a Rah Rah St. Urban Wealthy Neighborhood! attitude anyway. I can easily see us sending Jack to this school if we are 1) still living here and 2) can afford it. Neither of which are for sure.
But I have more doubts about Catholic high school. I have fewer now that I've read your comments, but there's still something about it. I really REALLY don't like the idea of a little insular Catholic world. It's the same kind of thing I noticed in some of the more "sheltered" kids in the non-denominational college fellowship. Having this perception of non-Christians (or non-Catholics in this case) as The Other. But I suspect that has more to do with the kind of kid you have and what kind of world you provide for him outside of school. It might even be more important to send your kid to a Catholic high school, according to you guys, what with the quality of education and all that. I guess this shows that environment is an important concern of mine. I'm not particularly worried about the racial make up of classrooms and things like that, but diversity of thought is important to me.
While I'm bringing that up, I have to say that I am not at all afraid of accusatory fundamentalist types putting a not-parent-approved fear of God into my kid. For one thing, we live amidst and attend church with Good Seattle Liberals and Good Seattle Liberals would rather die before making snap judgments about your belief system- unless, of course, you are driving an SUV to work, by yourself, every day of the week. I have heard about this stuff happening in religious schools, but I really don't see it at this school. We are hippy dippy Let's Learn About All The Wonderful Cultures and Their Wonderful Customs and Incorporate Them Into Everything We Do types. We are not, however, hippy dippy about church teaching. My priest is the most vocal and open I have ever heard about The Controversial Stuff. Oh my God, you should hear him in the marriage classes. I have to hide my face behind my hands.
I feel like I am forgetting all sorts of stuff, but the baby is awake ALREADY and I have not taken a shower and now my day is ruined. Ruined! I do want to try to respond to your comments, although I haven't been very good at that lately. Anyway, I really appreciate your stories. Honestly truly. Although my mom is disappointed no one had anything to say about the WASL, the Bane of her Existence. Oops, there I go writing about her again...