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.
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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.