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A little advice on making costly private school work?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

There is a small private school near us that I absolutely fell in love with when dd was a baby. She is currently in a small town, play based public preschool and thriving. The problem is, her preschool isn't in the district we live in. For pre-k, you are allowed to go if you are from the small town it's in, and from the neighboring large conglomeration of towns, which I live in. My town feeds into a very large district that I worked for as a teacher for 3 years, and i am just not that pleased with it for many reasons, though the school itself isn't considered one of the best or the worst in my area... kind of average I suppose.

 

Well when we reach the end of this year, I am faced with a big decision, which I want to carefully think out.  I feel that the formative years of elementary school are important for building a child's image of themselves as a learner. I taught 4th grade, so I got the students after many of them had decided school was boring, or that they weren't good at math, etc. I saw the attitudes towards school that had been built up and it weighs heavily on my mind. What strikes me about the private school is the amazing, fun projects they do (like their annual boat day, where every grade designs and builds a boat out of plastic bottles and the kids get to test them out on a local lake) and how excited the kids seem to be to be there. I only get one chance to do this early childhood thing, and I'm trying to stick to my guiding principals here :)

 

Sooo, just curious about what others think here. Should I:

 

1) Lie and send dd to current small town school for kindy, using my in-laws' address. This option makes me a little uncomfortable because I fee like it is dishonest, and if we get "found out," we'll have to pull dd and move her anyway. She would still have to do state testing, and homework and get graded, which are all things I dislike about public school... but she gets to stay with her friends and be in a more nurturing small town school

 

2) Go ahead and send her to our town's kindy, even though I know very well that I'm not very happy with the curriculum and structure in this district. Maybe I should just lighten up and it won't make any difference one way or another what I end up doing?

 

3) Try and figure out a way to make this private school work for a few years, just to allow her to do more play-based learning in the early elementary years... even if we end up ultimately back in a more traditionally academic public school setting.

 

 

Private school would be a big sacrifice for us. I feel like we could probably shift a few things around and make it work. Especially if I return to work, which I am thinking about doing. What experiences have you had that might help me figure out where to go with this? Do you think it's worth the trouble?The private school has multi-age classrooms, so dd would do kindy, 1st and 2nd all with the same teacher. I was thinking of trying out just kindy to see, and then maybe commit only up to 2nd after that until I see if we can swing it (the school goes up to 8th). Ds is right on her heels, but if I only do K-2, then I can feel like I am giving both kids just a few more years to stretch out and explore before buckling down and hitting the books. That way they also won't overlap one another and be in school at the same time, so I won't have to pay double tuition.

 

 

post #2 of 15

 

I can really only comment on this- I am in PA and not sure where in NJ you are but

Quote:
1) Lie and send dd to current small town school for kindy, using my in-laws' address. This option makes me a little uncomfortable because I fee like it is dishonest, and if we get "found out," we'll have to pull dd and move her anyway.

in my section of PA it is a real big deal and classmates parents may very well have no problem outing you! Knowing the issues with taxes and seeing how schools go after parents that do this-NO WAY would I risk it and put your child in that situation- NJ may be different but given the news I read from NJ I don't think many would take to lightly to this and just look the other way. Knowing that a person has to pay higher taxes just so you can get your way really doesn't go over well with most.

 

Risking this and having to up-root your child and pay the cost and fines is something I would really thing about doing.

 

also in PA (and you may not face this) it is not viewed as favorable to teach in one district and send your child to a school in another-live in another and teach in another- teachers are increasing coming under more social scrutiny, some district are raising this issue yet we have no laws yet on this - we do mandate that if you want to be on a school board you must reside within the district-with you being a teacher it might raise some questions


Edited by serenbat - 9/27/11 at 6:12am
post #3 of 15

I also would not lie to send my child to a better school. I'm saying that as a parent who used education as a significant factor in where to live & pay taxes. It's also not something I will model to my children - that we just lie if we can't have what we want.

 

Private school depends for me on how valuable I think that the cost of tuition is. We live in an area with a reputation for stellar public schools. Within the district, some schools are better than others, of course, but in general, private school wouldn't be worth the cost of the tuition for me. I don't know that I'd sacrifice the family's finances for things like "boat day." How often do those things happen? How representative are they of the school? Do they equate to interesting, solid learners? When considering private school, also think about the additional costs associated with the school. There are activities but also parties and social expectations, and for your children to be part of the private school community, you will need to be able to allow them to participate in those activities. For example, the very best private school near us (and really, it's an amazing school) requires students to learn to play violin beginning in kindergarten, so just looking at the tuition (which is around $13K) won't give you an idea of the cost of the violin, consumable instructional materials, private lessons if needed, etc. I'd guess that parents there easily spend an additional $5K on the cost of school. The school you're considering may not be that way, but I would guess that the social expectations are there, and I imagine it's tough on a child to be the only one who can't afford X that everyone else has/does. It's hard enough for us to explain that our kids don't have some things (handheld video game players...) not because we cannot afford it but because we choose not to.

post #4 of 15
Thread Starter 
I agree that it is not a good idea to lie. It just feels wrong... But I've not been the least bit quiet about living in the neighboring town, and said in conversation several times that it's too bad she can't go to school there.. To which the lying thing has been the response of the town parent several times. One was very specific an told me to have my in-laws write up a lease... Even two or three teachers said the same! My daughter is very well-liked, I understand, and one teacher told me she would love to have her in class in a few years. I was a teacher too, so the response surprised me. Honestly, we had hoped to have moved by this point, but the economy and I disagree on the depressing value of my house. I have to say again though, lying just feels all wrong. You're right that I shouldn't do that, so that option is out.

Boat day is one example.. It is the larger structure I look at that impresses me. Project-based with no homework or grades and multiple-age classrooms. I wouldn't say it's better... It fits my idea of what I wish school was like.The kids are given a lot of room to develop and follow passions. There are several prestigious private schools around here... This isn't one of them. It is more of an independent school... Kind of like schools in Finland if I could think of a comparison... Not as much formal structure. I think what I'm curious about is the experience of others who did private for a few years and then public... What was your experience with that? How did your child feel about the change? Are you glad you did it or indifferent?
post #5 of 15

 

 

Quote:
 One was very specific an told me to have my in-laws write up a lease... 

 

 

I don't know what your NJ laws are but in PA this would cause your parents taxes to rise and you must show legal proof of residence (leases do not count- you must show a utility bill in your name, etc)  here and the districts must forward the information to the tax collection for the area, thus your parents would be charged for having a rental and pay a much higher tax -so if you can do that and live with it- so be it.

 

it's too much a risk for me-IMO

 

would they take you as an out of district student (we do have that and they must pay a higher fee and do not get all district services)?

post #6 of 15

We go to a similarly sounding small private school. Lots of creative education, projects, community service, wilderness education, goes through 8th grade, mixed grades as well. We have a family hike and boat building project this Friday! We are hoping to stay here until 6th grade then we are crossing our fingers DD1 gets into a charter middle school that feeds into another charter high school and then all the rest of our kids (we have 4) will get in as well when they are that age. DD1 is in 3rd grade now and if anything, I'm realizing that it is even more important at her age to stay at her current school. She is dyslexic and as a former 4th grade teacher, you would know how kids start getting at this age. She enjoys learning and we've worked so hard to keep her self esteem level up, I want to do everything possible to keep that way. I have known other families that went to the public school after a couple years at a private and most of the kids did ok with the transition. 

post #7 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by serenbat View Post

 

 

 

 

I don't know what your NJ laws are but in PA this would cause your parents taxes to rise and you must show legal proof of residence (leases do not count- you must show a utility bill in your name, etc)  here and the districts must forward the information to the tax collection for the area, thus your parents would be charged for having a rental and pay a much higher tax -so if you can do that and live with it- so be it.

 

it's too much a risk for me-IMO

 

would they take you as an out of district student (we do have that and they must pay a higher fee and do not get all district services)?


It might be worthwhile to crunch a few numbers and figure out if a small rental payment (say, for the in-laws' guest bedroom), a monthly phone bill and the taxes would be less than the private school tuition. If so, then I'm not sure it's anyone's business how often the OP actually uses that guest bedroom. Many people rent/own second, third and fourth properties in different places and don't use them all the time. I'm thinking of the people who live in the country and keep a pied-a-terre in the city, or city folk with country houses. We pay a lot of taxes on our cottage property for services that we don't benefit from, but we don't mind because we do get a lot of other services. As long as the financials are agreeable to the two parties, the taxes are paid by someone and the school itself isn't dealing with an over-crowding problem, I'm not sure there is an ethical issue. If you are still bothered by the ethics, let the kid sleep over with the grandparents once or twice a month. 

 

 

 

post #8 of 15

what the PP said and also not to get off the subject, but in my area this opens up  a whole can of worms-so to say, if it doesn't for you (and as said it's is do able $$ wise) but you need to really look into the whole picture- it would involve not only higher taxes for the parents but we require rental inspections and some areas are not zoned to allow renting- all factors you need to consider

post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 
All very good points, thanks for the thoughtful input! I guess this just all shows that I have some thinking to do this year. Maybe the answer will eventually be clear. On a side note, my dh runs his his own business and we have been hit hard by the economy, so actually living with the in laws and renting our place has been on the table.... Guess if that happens I'll at least have that silver lining smile.gif
post #10 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by tammylsmith View Post

Project-based with no homework or grades and multiple-age classrooms. I wouldn't say it's better... It fits my idea of what I wish school was like.The kids are given a lot of room to develop and follow passions.


My kids go to a similar sort of private school, but they are in highschool and do get homework winky.gif

 

It's an awesome, amazing, wonderful school and worth every penny *to us.*

 

However, it isn't right for all kids. There really isn't one sort of education that suits all children. We've had kids attend the school and leave for variety of reasons that really boiled down to it not being the right place for them. Some kids really need a lot more structure. Some kids wonder what traditional schools are like and if they can succeed in them. We've even had children of teachers leave the school to go to regular public school because it was a better fit for them.

 

Although there are parents who start their child in K at our school, the parents making the biggest sacrifices to have their kids there all tried other schools first.  My advice is to try the school you are zoned for first. Your DD might get a wonderful teacher and have a lovely year. There's no reason to make major sacrifices (and if you are on the verge of moving in with family, it is major sacrifice) to pay for something for your child that they might not need.

post #11 of 15
Thread Starter 
Well, lol, not to be dramatic, but running your own business is rather feast or famine. We're having a bad stretch, but could be doing just fine in a few months. I'm trying to plan for success here... We wouldn't even consider pork ate (** Wanted to say "private" here.... was typing on a mobile phone and it oh so helpfully spell-checked me... thought I'd leave it in to make you laugh though smile.gif school unless the winds shift back in our favor! I'm following my mom's old advise... "think positive". I will definiTely be sure to check out our zoned school too.
Edited by tammylsmith - 9/27/11 at 10:14am
post #12 of 15

I think it's important to note that there are lots of ways to a positive and healthy early childhood. Much depends on your child and I suspect, with your notice of the situation, you are capable of making any adjustments or home enrichment neccessary to keep her happy

 

I wouldn't lie about where you live. There have been some well-publicized cases of kids being kicked out and parents prosecuted for exactly this. This is an extreme response but still, even just getting kicked out of a district would be pretty terrible for a kid who was happy there.

 

http://www.blackeconomicdevelopment.com/black-mother-jailed-for-sending-kids-to-white-school-district/

 

As for me, I'd just try the local kindergarten. It's kindergarten. If it doesn't work, well, try something else. Happiness in school really is this sort of magic mixture of things. There are kids who will thrive and be happy anywhere. There are schools that look fantastic on paper but can be a really terrible fit for your own child. There are schools that are gems within a poorly rated district. There are schools that seem lackluster but can offer tremendous flexibility and individualized attention. There are schools who may have fantastic programming but a toxic social culture. 

 

The private school might be great but if it's out of the budget and no chance of financial assistance, well, it's out of the budget. I might add that project based schools are NOT for everyone. We have one of the most notable programs in our county and families either love it or they pull their child out (it's a public charter.) Personally, my DD would not thrive in such a program despite being a very able student. My DS though, he loves it (goes to a school that is partial project based and trying to with the lottery to move into the program I just mentioned.) It could be awesome for your child but I'm not sure I'd risk family security for it. Particularly since you are a teacher and could offer her so much enrichment on your own if need be.

 

You mentioned the local school feeds into a large district. Have you looked for any magnets or charters in your area where allowances are made for out of district? 

 

My kids went to local public schools that I was initially fearful of. I wanted to send them to the posh coastal schools with national recognitions. However, it wasn't a possibility and so we tried our little inland schools that everyone disreguards. Wow, we have been SO happy with them.

 

If there were ever a time to try, it's kindergarten.

 

 

post #13 of 15

 

 

Quote:
 so actually living with the in laws and renting our place has been on the table.... 

 

 

to add - we have to also declare a primary residence here-doesn't matter if you have three homes or one

 

have you looked into living with the in-laws and getting financial aid if you did private? many are more likely to help those within the area 

post #14 of 15
Thread Starter 

Such good points mamas. I think I will just have to let the year progress and see where I end up at the other end. I will look into charter schools, and there is an excellent magnet high school we might try for, but I'm not sure there is much else. Thankfully, we will probably not be actually running out of money and moving in with the in-laws... that would be pretty hard. You are right that kindergarten is a good place to try things out. I just worry about the academics and state testing and all... especially since I saw it from the inside. I will just chill out a little and see where the year takes me. Hopefully we will be in a better place with the business, but even then, there is a lot I can do with $1,000 extra each month, lol :o) Maybe get a massage every week or a housekeeper..... just kidding of course, but I will have to think about the school more. there are 12 elementary schools in my district, and I've heard I can request a different one, and there does happen to be one I like a lot, so maybe I can try that route and save myself some money and find a happy place in the middle.

post #15 of 15
Thread Starter 

I wanted to add that, thanks to all your advice, I looked into it and NJ has a new policy of intradistrict choice. There is a school I really love that is close by and part of my district (this would be a great, free option if possible). So I will look into that first.

 

As another option, I also found a highly rated magnet school that isn't too far away (actually very close to my job) and employs a program for creating community that I myself found and enjoyed using in my classroom back in the day.. so that makes me feel good that they stress community and fun/play as I did when I taught. They have a tuition program for out of town kids that is very affordable and is, actually, the same rate I am currently spending on pre-k. They also  have half day kindy, which is a plus in my book, because my district is full day, and I would prefer to fill her days with family time and do more enrichment activities should I choose do to so.

 

So we'll still see what happens, but I have found that there are many more possibilities (and choices!) than I originally thought. I guess I've got some schools to visit :)

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