Please help me decide between schools - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 03-29-2010, 12:36 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi there --

We are having an inordinately hard time deciding between two Montessori schools and our local public, traditional, but well-loved by our neighbors, school.

School Number 1 - A very fancy Montessori school with dual language immersion in each classroom. They also have a fine arts curriculum that is fantastic and Kodalay music. They implement a full Montessori program and are AMI affiliated. It is about 25 minutes from our home and most of the kids who go to school there live in the city where the school is. It is a beautiful school, with lovely light, they keep the materials in great condition. All the way through upper elementary the kids seemed to be deeply engaged in interesting work. It goes through 8th grade. I really like the school.

But it is very expensive and we have 3 kids. We can afford the school by making some significant cuts and sticking to a budget, but I worry that in the current economic environment and with uncertainly it is foolish to spend so much money on a school. Also, it seems like we would be much less connected with the community where we live.

School Number 2 -- A lovely and very small Montessori school. They have Spanish, art, etc, but it is not as much a part of the program as it is at school number 1. It is not as beautiful a school, but still nice. There is only one primary, lower elementary and upper elementary. The primary teacher has been a Montessori teacher for 30 years and seems to truly love her work. I have heard raves about the lower elementary teachers, too.

After looking at school number 1, it seems kind of rinky dink. But I really liked it before I saw school number 1.

It is about 30 minutes away, but many of the kids live 30 minutes away from the school in the other direction from us. So potentially the kids could have friends who live an hour away. I am honestly not too willing to drive an hour on the weekends for a playdate when we'll be spending so much time in the car anyway. I mean birthday parties, etc, sure, but not so much for the can Phoebe come over and play kind of thing.

Also, we have twins and this means they would be in the same class through grade 6 with only about 18 other students in their class, maybe 2 or 3 their exact age.

This school seems like a solid, basic Montessori program. It is less than half as much as fancy school. Forgot to add, they are AMS affiliated, but also seem to implement a full Montessori program. The office staff are very kind and the director of the school also has twins who went through there, so she gets the twin thing.

Public School -- Though I put zero stock in test scores, this is a highly rated public school. We live in a suburb where people move here specifically for the schools. That means virtually everyone attends public school. I get the sense that they're actually good public schools and not into rote memorization, but still it is a public school with tests, traditional academics and a curriculum set by the state. But the kids would have local friends and it has a strong sense of community involvement. People seriously love this school and seem puzzled by the fact that we'd look elsewhere. To the school's credit, they have developed a very innovative creative writing program, when they kids read, they are reading real books, not primers, at their own reading level and per their own interest. So it's not a bad public school at all.

Help! What do you think? Sorry this is so long, but we've honestly been going back and forth. Up till a week or so ago, I was dead set against public school, but have been concerned about the social aspects of going to school away from our area.

SAHM to F & P, : fraternal twins born 3/05, : I, born 12/07 & at 5 weeks in July 2009
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#2 of 7 Old 03-29-2010, 01:07 PM
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Could you give the public school a shot, and if you don't like it go to the fancy Montessori? Here's my thinking... DS goes to a Montessori similar to the second one you described. It's a great school, teachers love what they do and care about the children, but it's just not brand new, state of the art, fancy shmancy that some others are. Of course the tuition reflects that. BUT, it is 5-10 minutes away from our house, and most of his classmates live within 15 minutes of us - some less than 5 minutes away. I have SO enjoyed getting to know the other families, meet up at the park for a spur of the moment afternoon picnic, etc. One mom is in grad school and I've invited her son over here to play so she could finish an assignment, and she has offered to do the same for me. It's just such a sense of family and community that has enriched his school experience in ways I couldn't have imagined. In the case of your public school, it sounds like they are already thinking outside the box, so to speak, and providing an education directed at meeting the needs of the individual child. It sounds pretty good, as far as public schools go. I would at least look into that more before you rule it out. And with 3 children, with all the money you will save on tuition, you can afford music lessons, dance, karate, French - whatever their hearts desire - and probably still come out ahead financially.

ETA: I probably wouldn't consider the second Montessori school if it is true that most of his friends would live an hour away from you, for the social reasons I already stated.

Kat, wife to and mommy to (Dec 07).
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#3 of 7 Old 03-29-2010, 01:11 PM
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Only under the direst public schooling options would I consider schlepping 25-30 minutes 4x per day for school. That would be an absolute deal breaker for me. I am simply not willing to spend that much time in the car or make my kids do it, either.

I vote the local option. We're three blocks from our local PS and it's great. The kids know the neighborhood kids, there's a lot of parental involvement, we all feel really invested in where we live.

Your school sounds really nice!
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#4 of 7 Old 03-29-2010, 01:37 PM
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I don't know what to advise, but I will relate our experience. My dc did attend Montessori schools that were about a half-hour drive away. We did drive around to playdates on the weekends. They also had friends in the neighbourhood that they played with after school and on weekends. Going to an out-of-district school just meant that they had a wider pool of friends - it didn't mean they didn't have any friends nearby.

Yep, some days it was a pain to drive to school. On the positive side, I did get to know the cities we lived in very well though, and became familiar with some great neighbourhoods!

Eventually, we switched to public schools, and they've been pretty happy there too. I've always been very happy that they had those Montessori years to start.

With respect to costs, you know best what your family's financial situation is, and what you can afford.

It seems like you have good schooling options, which is nice even if it is difficult to choose! Once you've sorted out the stressors (incovenience, lost time, finances etc.) you want to minimize vs. those you can live with, you'll be able to make a sound decision. It's nice to know that whatever you decide, your children will have a good learning experience.
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#5 of 7 Old 03-30-2010, 12:00 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for your thoughtful comments!

About school #2, I'm sure not all of the kids live an hour away from us. Many of the kids probably live in the city where the school is, too. It's just that none of them seem to live in our direction of the school.

I really feel like Montessori is the best choice for our kids, but neither of our options feels like it's best for our family.

Right now I'm leaning toward school #2, trying it out and seeing how we fit in with the community. If it works well, great, but if not, we leave the option open for school #1 and there's always a good public school as a fall back. (My impression is that it is increasingly hard to come in to Montessori without Montessori experience. As it is, my girls have no M experience. We did preschool at home.)

SAHM to F & P, : fraternal twins born 3/05, : I, born 12/07 & at 5 weeks in July 2009
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#6 of 7 Old 03-30-2010, 10:26 AM
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We are wrestling with very similar concerns. We can afford tuition for the two kids at our small local Montessori school if we operate under a very tight budget, with no wiggle room whatsoever every month which makes me very nervous in this economy. Our public school option turns out to be a good school and the parents I've spoken with who have their kids there are very happy, so I'm wondering if that might be a valid option for us, as much as I believe in the Montessori curriculum for elementary.

Compared to your situation, OP, the difference for us is that the Montessori school is 5 minutes away and all of the kids are local. It's really nice to know that the kids' friends live so close by, and I like being a part of the community; I think the public school would create that sense of community even more. We actually started the school year at a beautiful Montessori that was more expensive and was a 40 minute drive. Kids traveled to that school from as much as a half hour away in another direction so, like you'd observed, we'd be traveling an hour to have a playdate. I'm just not willing to drive that much (plus traffic out here is terrible so a half hour drive can turn into an hour drive easily) so we went for the smaller less perfect but local Montessori option.

I do have concerns that our local Montessori is *too* small because it only has one lower elementary classroom with 10-15 students, so we are seriously looking at the public school. I've discussed all that on another thread, though. Because of that and because both Montessori's require a half hour drive, I think in your situation I'd consider either really stretching financially for the more expensive school or else going local to the public school. I'd lean more toward #2 if it were local. It's a tough call, though!

Good luck making the decision. It is SO hard to figure out what will be best for your family, I know!!
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#7 of 7 Old 04-27-2010, 02:44 AM
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We had this same dilemma. We are putting our two kids through a Children's House then, we are going public. I hope make up the difference academically with the money we save, taking more trips to the museums, festivals, the coast, abroad, going to plays and other cultural events.

All that time you and your children would spend in the car could be spent outside with their friends, riding bikes, eating spontaneous dinner together!
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