Monday, May 20, 2013

Private School

“I ‘know’ families have their reasons for sending their kids to private schools, but our neighborhood schools are ‘good’ schools. What do you think Linda?”

That was my question to a friend who has children close to the age of my oldest daughter; children who attend(ed) the same public schools as mine.
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My husband had the job of finding a “good” neighborhood in a “good” school district when we were ready to buy our first house together. He grew up in the area, making the assignment his. Narrowed down to two areas, we chose the one that has the “way out in the country” reputation as opposed to the one that has the “affluent” reputation, yet having fairly equal test scores—those numbers that are thought to determine your child’s entire existence.
Three children later, Girl #1 was ready for kindergarten. After a brief period of nervousness—wondering if the private school at our church would be better for our little angel who would be taught by people we knew instead of people we didn’t know at the big, bad public school—Girl  #1 made her debut at the high scoring, reputable, neighborhood elementary school.
By the way, the beautiful yellow bus picked up and dropped off practically at my front door. If I were driving to the private school, that I don’t recall having a carpool line back then, somehow I would have had to get Girl #1 into the building, while holding the hand of 3 year old Girl #2 and carrying 1 year old Girl #3, let alone just getting them out of the house. That vision helped me to erase the “big, bad, public school image” and get back to the “good” school image.
Anyway, all three girls were eventually at the elementary school doing well. Linda and I would share thoughts and conclude that our children were on a good path, so when we’d hear of a neighbor transferring to a private school, we’d wonder why.
The homeschoolers—we understood. They want control over what their children learn and how they learn it. The city dwellers—we understood. Most of their schools don’t have those high test scores and are not considered good schools. It’s the suburbanites like us, who purposely moved to the neighborhood for the schools, who we didn’t understand. Why did they send their children to private schools?
Well guess what? I have a kid in a private school. How did “that” happen?
In a nutshell, Girl #3, an A-B student, lacked a spark at our elementary school. She worked hard, was adored by her teachers, had friends, liked school, etc.; however, the lively, witty, creative personality at home was not the one that went to school. She was complacently going through the motions.
As the third child, it occurred to me that I might not be giving her as much of my energy as I was giving the other two who were beginning to cover new and more exciting ground. Everything with her was a “been there, done that,” experience, sooo… Darling Husband and I decided to fork up the bucks and give her an adventure for 4 years in an all-girls middle school.
Just as I once did, people ask why she is going to a private school. They often assume that she has a learning problem or lacks self-confidence; neither of which is the case. The 80 girls at the school are there for different reasons. Some do need a confidence boost, as we all do on occasion, but the majority is there because the school teaches more creatively and is big on diversity in people and in learning. A lot of the girls are the city dwellers that I mentioned; a few are scholarship recipients and the rest are suburbanites like us who drive and carpool into the city.
Girl #3 is happy to be there.
_ _ _ _ _
Now that my children are in middle and high school, I find myself paying more attention to what goes on at public school board meetings and other meetings concerning school budgets and the direction each school is on. Good friends of mine stay up-to-date and are adept at interpreting the jargon and reading in between the lines. They are always willing to discuss and share.
The private schools have their versions of this ongoing melee, too. The necessary dollars for teachers, computers, field trips, and every resource imaginable eludes most of these schools, too.
As my eyes continue to widen (the more conversations I have with parents), I understand more about the “choice of school” decisions they make. A few days ago, a parent who sacrificed to send her children to one of the best private schools in the area, told me that she will be sending her son off to the University of Notre Dame. That’s what they wanted, so I suppose it was all worth it.
It’s all about the numbers (dollars and test scores)—or is it?
If you are a parent, what are (were) your school preferences? Is (Was) it different for different kids in the family? What was your school experience growing up and its impact?
Image found here.


Mari said...

We've been there too. I went to private school, mu hubby went to public. When our oldest started, the city we lived in didn't have the best schools although they weren't terrible. We sent her to private and really liked the school. When we moved to the area we now live in, the schools had a great reputation and we knew quite a few people in the district so the kids went to public. It can be a big decision!

Tabor said...

I grew up in a poor farming community and attended public schools and got a fair education. It was not as good had I been a city girl. Then decades later things change. I raised my children in an upper middle class community and felt safe sending them to public school. Rich kids are just as bad as poor kids, but in some neighborhoods this is a more serious consideration regarding crime and drugs and bullying. These can be more prolific in crowded and poorly funded schools. It is a fact. But private schools do not always have the best tools and laboratories and staffing. It is a difficult situation and as you have pointed out, there is also the personality of the student to consider.

Abby said...

This is tricky! There are so many variables.

When we moved here, we (like you) based our house search on the reputation of the school districts. In the end, we're in a good district and we've been happy enough with it so far, BUT, I often wonder. Are the test scores higher here because of the education system? Or are they higher here because this is where the parents who care more about them end up sending their kids - know what I'm sayin'? Chicken and egg.

In you and your kids' cases, I think just the fact that you are thoughtful about this will do wonders for them!

Judy Thomas said...

I went to an excellent public school and believe in public education. I think we need to do a far better job as a society on how we fund public schools (the property tax funding of public schools means wealthy communities get good schools, poor communities get poor schools) and run them. Still, I understand the difference between a belief in equality in education and the reality on the ground for many families.

Rob-bear said...

When our children were going through school, public school was about "the only game in [our small] town." We didn't even think of private school. They graduated from public high schools in the city were we live now, and both did well enough to go to university. (Our daughter is now doing a master's degree in social work; our son dropped out, but is home-schooling his two children — we help a bit.)

I think most of our decisions were the right ones. I would do them again in the same situations.

I realize, however, that we Canadians may do some things differently from our American friends and neighbours.

Blessings and Bear hugs!
Bears Noting
Life in the Urban Forest (poetry)

Tracey said...

I went to a very poor, very diverse Catholic school. At 22 I became a public school teacher, and I was appalled by bad behavior of the students. By the time I had kids, I lived in an area with good, though declining, schools and I sent my kids there. Meh. The school wasn't bad. But is was still a school. So, now I homeschool. Where I lived in California, it was assumed that everyone would send their kids to private school if they could afford it. Or move to the really rich town up the road.

I agree with many variables.

Shelly said...

My older daughter went through her education in public school and did great. My younger daughter is 16 and has been in private school for all but the first two years of her schooling. I am a public school teacher, and it was a hard decision. What it boiled down to was we felt she would be in an environment at our private church school that is much closer to how we are raising her than at the large public high school she would have been attending. I've heard too many stories of things that go on there that probably most parents who aren't in education don't hear.

Rebecca S. said...

I went to a private Catholic elementary school for seven years, then to public school for the rest because our town did not have a Catholic high school. I think it was a good experience for me, and I still have the friends I made there, but I think the kids were nicer in the public school.

As you know, I home schooled my kids for four years when we lived at a remote lodge, which was a good way for them to start off and teach them good work habits. They all have done fine in public school but we made sure they all had lives outside of school because their small high school has limited extra curricular activities, and I wanted to encourage them to have a life outside of school.

I agree with Abby in that, quite often, schools with involved and engaged parents have higher scores. Our elementary school here has a very diverse demographic and a great principal whose aim it is to develop the kids into fine human beings, but it doesn't score very high on the 'marks' end of things.
Would I send them to private Catholic school if we had one here? Probably. But we don't, so we have made the best of our situation. I think you know your kids the best of anyone, and given the choice, want the best for them, right?

Barb said...

Whether rich, poor, or in between, parents must evaluate a child's school experience and advocate. Private schools aren't exempt from problems. I really believe that family support no matter what the choice of school is crucial. That said, parents with higher education and those with a higher income have the advantage. I cannot imagine my mother, a blue-collar worker with an 8th grade education, advocating for me. I did advocate for my own children - we used both public and private schools for them. My children continue the trend with my grandchildren - sometimes asking my advise since I was a teacher. It's all about the needs of the child and how best to serve them.

Linda Hensley said...

I managed to get through public schools and feel like I fared alright, but I guess I was lucky in attending a "good" suburban school. I eventually ended up substitute teaching in the same school district and got a different view of the experience. Different kids have different needs. We need to educate them in the ways that work best for them, including homeschooling sometimes. I wish every kid had parents who have the love and means for their best outcomes.

Hilary said...

I never considered private schooling for my kids.

I did have the luxury of being able to get very involved in the school system. I was a member of the parent council through most of their years in elementary school. I was on numerous parent/teacher committees of various natures. I knew administration and teachers very well. I was able to determine for myself who of the 2 or 3 teachers per grade would be most suitable for my sons' particular needs. I knew how to make that happen despite, that for many years, the principal was resistant to parents' requests for their kids. For the most part, it worked out well for my boys.

It does take more than the school staff to find the right fit for each kid and of course that just can't always work out with all the other things needed to take into consideration. I understand that not everyone has that opportunity to be that involved. I was very lucky that way. I believe that a parent-teacher partnership is very important.. to whatever degree can be managed.

yonca said...

That is a big chance if you have a good public school around which I had in Long Island! Here I found a good one too. But.. i think it depends on your conditions. Because my son needs to improve his english so a private school would be better for him or he needs a language course to support. But if I were still living in New York, I wouldn't think of a private school.
Will be checking out other posts of you and try to catch up xx

Mage said...

First. Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving me such a nice note. I sure do appreciate it.

Do you really want my opinion on this topic. LOL I was a low income practicing alcoholic. My kids lived with their father until one by one they came back to live with me. My one and only rule was that they go to school. The youngest went. She started all over and went from the bottom to 6th grade in a year and a half. My eldest didn't want to go to school. She'd start off in the mornings and never get there. Wouldn't go to her counseling appointments, and did her life all her own way with drinking, drugs, and boys not school. I ended up putting both in a public special education school, where after 4 years they both ended up top of their classes.

Today, after years of a horror story, my eldest is graduating from a two year college with a double degree. I cannot tell you how proud we all are.

Buckeroomama said...

I went private all the way... but where I grew up, that was a no-brainer. The school system where I grew up and where we live now is different from the school system in the US. I guess, for us, it's not so much a matter of private vs public, but rather which (name) school you go to. We ended up choosing a school for our kids that we feel is the best fit --not just for them, but for our family as a whole. It was important to us to find that balance --academics, creativity, teaching philosophy that we fully support and are committed to, affordability, distance from home, school community, diversity, an IB curriculum.

RAnn said...

Here the norm is for people who can afford it to send their kids to private, mostly Catholic schools. My oldest, now 21 is autistic. We didn't know that when he started school, but knew he had a speech delay. We picked public schools for him due to special ed and ended up liking his school enough that we couldn't figure out why we shouldn't send his sister there three years later. From that elementary my son moved to Catholic middle school, Catholic high school and then back to public high school. His sister went from the elementary to a public magnet middle/high school with which we were very pleased. I have a much younger daughter and we put her in Catholic school; mostly for the faith element, partly because due to new rules we couldn't send her where her sibs went. I'm dreading the high school decision--they are so expensive, I don't think the religious aspect is worth paying for and yet the class of kids at our local public high school isn't really who I want her running with. She doesn't have the grades/test scores for the magnet school.