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An open letter from Glen Biegel, HRA Parent and Board Member to families considering Holy Rosary Academy.
What was raising nine kids like? Let’s dispense with the easy answers first. Yes it is fun; it is challenging, it is very expensive, it is like riding a surfboard while strapped onto a roller-coaster and being chased by a great white shark singing “Let it Go” from Frozen. OK, now that I’ve got that off my chest, let’s get into the details. My lovely children are 26, 24, 22, 21, 19, 16, 14, 11 and 6 (That’s right, and six. I love the knowing look from God that says “Oh, you have plans? I see…”) Let’s see how my experience matches others for raising kids during Gen-X/Y/Z/Me?
How did things turn out?
All of my children are Catholic. All of-age have been confirmed. All of them continue to defend what they believe and know why they believe what they do. All of them seek truth, beauty and goodness (though not necessarily in that order, and not in equal quantities). They are all individuals. They love me (or act like they do -they keep coming around, anyway). They have character, passion and still a deeply Catholic culture. None (so far) are priests or nuns, so let no one tell me this story had a perfect ending, BTW.
How did I get here?
My kids grew up. They didn’t just grow older. They didn’t just learn new things and get different friends. They grew up by matching wits with me, with life, with truth, with teachers, with each other, with pain, with joy, with anger (sometimes anger from me). You see, growing up and growing older are two different things to me. Growing up means that my culture, my Catholic belief, my fear of the Lord, my path toward happiness should be reflected or present in my children, yet cannot be mandated within them. That is because I didn’t raise Catholic children. My wife’s and my aim is to raise Catholic ‘farmers’. Catholics who are mature, and now can bring their beliefs to a thirsty world. Catholics who will water the world with their hope, feed the world with their love, and overcome the world with their courage.
Educating Children in the faith?
Have you ever had a deep conversation about faith with your kids? Not a lecture from you to them, but a real conversation? Are these two activities different? As different as growing farmers and kids.
While you should always be the primary educator of your children (if you are doing things the best way), you are never the only educator of your children. We all know there can be a few tricky parts to deep faith discussions with our children. You may not (1) know your faith, (2) be good at faith discussions, (3) be very inspiring about faith, (4) want to hear an actual opinion from your kids unless it is a restatement of your view. These are hurdles, and a couple of them may be fatal to growing faithful Catholics.
I found a secret passage from good kids to great Catholics. It’s time to be honest, my wife and I could not have done this on our own. We were losing some of the kids, and likely would have seen some of the kids fully abandon Catholicism, and us, had it not been for a critical partner.
My 7th grader knows more about faith than me
I am not poorly educated, but neither am I capable of a well rounded discussion about most intricate ideas that underlie faith. The reasons for faith. Question: have your kids ever shown a deeper understanding of a subject than you, their parent? In my humble opinion, this is a critical step in them growing up and becoming truly Catholic. If my kids were to learn what I could ‘teach’ them, given I am not a great teacher, they would fail the test of life. The test of life is that your beliefs, your culture, your truth, your values must make more sense, hold together better, be more meaningful, and therefore be more powerful than the world’s. How many of you can honestly say that? Not only that your values, beliefs and culture are stronger than the omnipresent world’s but that you will be able to teach that truth SO deeply that your Children will never forget or stray from it?
Enter the seminar and Classical curriculum
Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric. Three words that hold the key to education. More than that, they hold the key to the educated. While a parent, and/or a well meaning school teacher may be able to cover the grammar of a subject (and all subjects have grammar, like the plus, minus division, and multiplication of mathematics). Grammar is the basic building block of any subject. But what about Logic? What about Rhetoric? Fewer institutions understand these eternal ideas, and even fewer parents can shower them on their kids. That is the brilliance of the seminar style envisioned by Plato and Socrates. The foundation of a classical education.
A building but so much more
Socrates and Plato had a massive advantage. They didn’t need to heat, plumb, insulate or protect the Greek Forum or wherever they spoke (Yes, I looked it up, and asked my kids. They said Socrates and Plato dialogued in homes. That sounded too boring, so it became the ‘Greek Forum’!). Socrates could just show up and ‘dialogue.’ We, here in Alaska, need a place to transmit the eternal Catholic truths from original sources through a seminar setting. And that place is found in particular at one special place here in Anchorage. Holy Rosary Academy.
I wouldn’t say I was lucky
I would say that I was blessed to find Holy Rosary Academy. Education is a part of my family creed. HRA and their classrooms are an extension of my family. I have never had to ask my kids to do their homework (because they will serve detention if they don’t). I rarely had to see the principal, because my kids knew that the school and I were on the same page for their behavior (like standing when an adult enters the class, or calling everyone by their proper name, or walking to class, or not having cliques, or treating everyone with respect, or serving younger students). In short, Holy Rosary Academy is a part of my success story. How big of a part? I’ll never know. I’ll also never regret the monetary costs it took to send them there. I have a permanent gift from HRA. I hope my children have an eternal one.
So who will help complete your child’s education? Is there anyone who can reflect, even PERFECT, your values to your kids? Who will help you have deep faith discussions? Who will ensure you learn things from your kids you never knew about life, faith and courage? I hope you understand now that I have been given a gift. A gift I want to share with each one of you. I want to share all nine of them with you, and the school that helped me faithfully prepare them. Holy Rosary Academy truly is a place where faith and reason meet in the pursuit of excellence.