When we moved to central Pennsylvania this summer, we decided to enroll Emma, our “baby” who is now in tenth grade, in Catholic school. I felt that perhaps attending Catholic school would help her adjust quicker by making friends who have grown up in a Catholic home like she has. I hoped it would give her the opportunity to see more kids at church that she knew from school, and maybe that would help her adjust to the new youth group easier. So, in some ways, we chose Catholic school for social benefits. I knew moving across the country at her age, and starting a brand-new school in a brand-new city was going to be very hard, and I wanted to make things as easy on her as I could.
But I also loved the idea of our Catholic faith being reinforced every day at school, and the thought of students and teachers beginning and ending each day in prayer together. I loved the idea of a smaller student/teacher ratio, and higher academic standards.
We were blessed to find a wonderful Catholic school in our area with an excellent, long-standing reputation, impressive online reviews, a very low student-to-teacher ratio, and an extremely high rate of college attendance by graduates. The school opens and ends each day in prayer, as well as stops at noon to pray the Angelus together. The students are required to take religious courses in all grades. The teachers and staff are incredibly friendly and supportive. We really feel we have found the best school for Emma.
Emma was fine with starting Catholic school, except for one thing: she did not want to have to wear a uniform! She gagged when she looked at the pictures online and read the dress code. I believe the word “gross” was used several times.
However, we are now about 6 weeks into the first quarter of Catholic school, and she no longer hates wearing the uniform. In fact, she has come to appreciate the many benefits of wearing a school uniform. I had never even thought about these issues before, since our kids had only homeschooled and then attended public school in the past. But I am finding I love school uniforms! Here are some things I love about them:
- Uniforms mean no big, long, arduous shopping spree at the end of summer. First of all, let me say, I am not a woman who loves shopping. I see most shopping as a chore that needs to get done, and school clothes shopping is one of my least-favorite things. We attended a used uniform sale at the school in early August, and came home with a couple of skirts, 3 polo shirts, and 2 sweaters. I only had to find the required knee socks and leather shoes to complete her wardrobe. This was by far the quickest, easiest, and smallest shopping trip for school I’ve ever made! While we’ve added more pieces since then, it sure made things simple. (And being able to add a piece here and there by shopping online at the uniform store is the best thing ever!)
- Uniforms actually save money. I thought buying uniforms was going to be expensive, but it’s not. Believe it or not, having uniforms has saved a ton of money as far as buying a wardrobe goes. As I mentioned above, we bought some used items at the school during the summer, which were sold at a fraction of the cost. Even buying new items, which are high-quality and not necessarily cheap, has saved money because she really only needs a few pieces. Nobody at school knows if you have 10 blue polo shirts or 2.
- Uniforms make kids feel united. Makes sense, doesn’t it? On the first day of school, Emma was so nervous that she was going to show up at school and look different than everyone else. She was haunted by the thought that we may have got the uniform all wrong and she would stand out to everyone as the new girl who has no clue how to dress. But as soon as we pulled up to the school on the first day, her anxiety vanished as she saw all the other girls dressed exactly the same as she was. She knew she belonged before even stepping outside the car.
- Uniforms make forming cliques a little harder. I remember in high school, you were easily labeled as a “skater,” a “punk rocker,” a “kicker,” a “rich preppy”, a “metalhead,” a “pothead” – just to name a few. The way you dressed pretty much categorized you automatically. According to my kids, it hasn’t changed much in high school these days. But when you’re all wearing the same “gross” clothes, this is nearly impossible. It’s an extension of #3 – kids feel united, like hey, we’re all in this together. Also, nobody knows if you’re from a “rich” family or one who can barely afford to send you to Catholic school. There are no obvious social and economic barriers.
- It simplifies getting ready for school in the morning. I mean, it really, really simplifies getting ready for school! This might be my favorite thing about uniforms. The past five years that my girls have been in public school has made for a struggle every single school morning as they try to decide what to wear to school. I mean, when you’re 14 years old it doesn’t matter than you put something out to wear the night before. When you wake up at 6:00 the next morning, you might be in a completely different mood than you were 8 hours ago, and you have to make a decision right then and there about what to wear. Sometimes this involves trying on 3 or 4 or 5 outfits in one morning. Uniforms completely eliminate this hassle, and even on the mornings that Emma has trouble getting out of bed, she is still able to get dressed in 5 minutes flat. There just aren’t that many options. “Do I feel like wearing my white shirt or my blue one? The green skirt or the plaid one?”
I haven’t heard the word “gross” uttered in recent weeks, at least not aimed toward school uniforms. A few days ago, two new button-down oxford cloth shirts that I had ordered arrived in the mail. I dutifully hung them in Emma’s closet next to her other uniform pieces. Last night, she discovered them and exclaimed, “Mom! When did you buy these? Thank you so much, I’ve been wanting these kinds of shirts! I love them!” Now, that was unexpected. Six weeks ago she would have gagged!