My parish offers faith formation for children ages 3-6 during Mass time. (This is not a children's liturgy of the word.) The children miss the entire Mass if they attend the faith formation classes. My husband feels this is normal, as when he was growing up his home parish had this exact same setup. He feels like it's important for young children to learn about the faith with their peers; that it is different than learning from their parents. I don't think that it is right to remove a child from the presence of the Eucharist in order to learn a song and make a craft. Is this something that is just a matter of differing opinions, or is there something in Catholic teaching that would prevent us from having our children in these classes the way they are currently set up?
Children who have not yet received First Communion are not required to attend Mass. Nonetheless, I agree with you that they should not be herded off to a class while the parents attend Mass. My concern though is that this is not so much a “faith formation” class (the kids are as young as three years old!) but is in fact an intentional design to keep the Mass free of noisy young children, who oftentimes are not expected to sit still and be quiet during Mass by their parents. Rather than try to convince parents to form their children properly in Mass behavior, the parish has found a way to remove the children from Mass.
Children belong at Mass, each and every week, from their earliest memory – not so much because it is required by the Church, but because it forms the children in how Catholics approach the Mass. Catholics go to Mass each and every Sunday and holy day of obligation unless there is some serious objective reason why they cannot go on a particular occasion. Taking children to Mass from the time they are babies ingrains into them the habit of attending Mass. But for this to work well for the children, the parents, and the other congregants, parents must take responsibility for training their children in Mass etiquette and must stop taking offense when other congregants or clergy ask them either through looks or spoken words to attend to the needs of a misbehaving child.