Learning at School
> If you can afford a very good private school but chose public instead, what made you decide that way?
At the beginning of this school year, I thought that definitely I will be sending my son to one of the best private schools in our area starting in kindergarten or first grade. Now I'm having my doubts. I've visited two open houses in my area for private schools and although I can see the curriculum, facilities, and teachers seem great, I'm wondering if it's too much of a commitment to be throwing on a 5-6 year old. What I mean is, the days are longer, start earlier, and there are way more activities. Are the early grades more important to gain a foothold on education or are the later years, like starting in middle school the time to give kids the expanded horizons that a better-funded school can offer? Of course the private schools are saying to me that the early years establish a child's view of school and their like/dislike of education but then I see a lot of parents opt to do earlier years in public school and put their kids into private school in middle or high school. Is that strictly to save money? I can swing the expense of all 12 years for both kids in a private school, but there is only one private school close to me that goes from K-12, the second one is very good but goes from PK-6th only and from 1st grade onward, it looks like very few kids (which could be a good thing in terms of ratios but a bad thing in terms why-are-parents-pulling-them-out?). I'm thinking that maybe the first few elementary school years may be just a holding pattern to get the fundamentals. All that extra creativity in the private school classroom although of course ideal, is it essential until later? DS is very bright and has a great attention span and seems like he would do very good academically no matter where he went.
I'm going to try to look into the public schools around me, how much worse could it be? I've been given all this information by the private schools that public schools are not flexible at all curriculum, cannot accomodate kids with different learning styles, and start timed standardized testing very early.
Sorry for such a disjointed post. I'm mostly thinking out loud. Please give me your thoughts on the subject. Thanks.
My son is only 2, so just in preschool, but I've been doing a lot of research into schools around here, and I can tell you what I'm leaning towards. First of all, I've chosen Montessori education for him, especially for the younger years. I would like for him to go to a wonderful M school nearby through elementary. Then, we will reassess for Junior high. I'm thinking he'll likely be in a good public school (we'll be sure to buy a home in the right district - there are several great ones around here) for high school. My train of thought is that in public school there is less differentiation for the lower grades, than the upper. In high school, there is the option of GT, honors, AP, etc so that if a student excels in one (or many) areas, they have an appropriate education option. There are also more extra curricular activities generally offered in public school, such as multiple sports, orchestra, band, drama, choir, gymnastics, swimming, cheerleading, dance, etc. So for now I'll choose a great private school for him so he can get off to a great start, and the public schools will be better equipped to education him based on his various talents when he is older.
Well I wouldn't consider private school (at least in this area) for quite a few reasons.
1. We have exactly one private secular school in this area. I have a friend who worked there and enrolled her kids there for a while and really disliked it for several good reasons before it was all said and done.
2. DH is an athiest and would never let DS's go to a religous school which would be all the other private schools in this area.
3. My work takes me to many of the private schools in the area and I while the teacher/student ratios are great the quality of the instruction not so much. I've spent the last 15 years working in schools and have been in lots and lots of classrooms at different age levels and in different states. I trust my gut about this.
4. DS1 first three years in public school have been fabulous. Both his Kindergarten teacher and his second grade teacher have been really, really good. His first grade teacher was not quite as good, but IMO still a quality teacher.
5. I want my kids to experience economic and racial diversity in this neck of the woods your not likely to get that in a private school.
6. Just because I have the money doesn't mean I want to spend it private school. I picked a house in a good school district and pay plenty of property taxes so that the public schools are good.
FTR--I'm not anti private school or homeschool. It just never made sense form my situation.
We only chose public because my husband doesn't want to pay private school tuition. He thinks we pay taxes and it's a huge waste of money to pay private school tuition.
I am so sorry I didn't push the issue. We've had 2 rough years in public school and I'm at the point that I'm thinking about putting them in private next year. I'm a SAHM but, I will get a job it I need to to cover the cost so he doesn't have to pay for it.
I don't think you can generalize about schools at all anymore. Maybe in the past you could but these days, there are so many variables.
Some private schools nurture the entire student - they don't over exaggerate academics but find a balance between strong academics and other interests. But, some are full of rough bullies and nastiness. And the same can be said for public schools. There are some fantastic ones and some not so fantastic ones. It's so school specific anymore.
I figure I can do one of two things: pay for private school or save for college.
Now, private school isn't something I've ever considered, since we are just three blocks from a terrific, funky, environmentally-focused public school where the kids call their teachers by first names and work in gardens, do lots of art, have project-based learning, etc. I love it.
But even if the school wasn't all that, I would have to think long and hard before I'd spend potential college money on private school.
I'm coming from experience, here. The public schools where I grew up were highly regarded. Folks moved to my town for them. But my parents shelled out to send three kids to Waldorf school. They did not save for college, yet college was an absolute expectation for all of us (as it is for my kids). Consequently, there was a lot of stress about how we were going to pay for college, a lot of freaking out and last minute calls to the financial aid office. It was really, really hard. To this day, I wish they'd sent me to public school instead of pouring all that money into Waldorf education.
I won't be able to fully fund my kids' college, but we're saving as much as we can. Paying for college just ranks a heck of a lot higher on my list.
We have done private, and now are choosing public. Here's what works well for us in our decision making to use public; we are fans of the local school-it is "home base" in a lot of ways for our community. There are multi-age and multi-generational aspects to the life of the school, and this ties my children to their home community in a way that is very powerful. We have found it absolutely unacceptable that the private school we used had no accountability for educating children. Absolutely none, and it was incredibly clear when we learned that most kids coming from this school had to be re-mediated in some fashion. That alone made the $$$ seem like a joke to commit to. We also appreciate that the teachers who teach our kids are credentialed. This isn't a dealbreaker because there are folks who are good educators who come from other walks of life, but in our case, it's important. It's also a far different and rewarding experience to have economic, social and ethnic diversity in our kids lives. I'm sorry, but the elitist society we found in private was not the real world, or one I'd want my kids to live in.
Most of the negative experiences I've seen re: private school seem to be related mostly to that individual private school not being a good school/good fit, and public schools that are very good. Around here the public schools are not progressive in any way, but we do have a wonderful M school, with degreed teachers (many of whome have masters degrees or higher) etc, etc. I think it may be more about the individual school, rather than public vs. private.
Haven't read the replies . . .
We can't afford the super expensive private schools around here, but if we could, I may consider sending my kids there. However, the downside for me would be them growing up surrounded by such affluence. I think it really does kids a disservice to grow up thinking everyone has huge beautiful houses and takes expensive vacations and has perfect clothes. I think it's really easy to develop a sense of entitlement and/or jealousy and bitterness.
We could afford the private Catholic schools, but we aren't religious and don't want our kids in a religious school.
So, if I had to choose between a fantastic public school and a nice but not over the top alternative private school, I would choose the public school. If the public schools were mediocre and the private schools rocked, I would choose the private school.
Originally Posted by kittykat2481
I think it may be more about the individual school, rather than public vs. private.
I agree. We can afford private but our kids are currently in a wonderful public school. None of our private school options would be as well suited for our kids as the public option.
One of my DDs has mild sn and school isn't a perfect fit for her. I expanded my private school search to include schools that were up to an hour away and couldn't find anything that would be better for her than where she is right now.
Our public school has a wonderful staff, small classes, and involved parents. I love my kids school.
However, we are moving for my DH job this summer and at least one (if not both) my kids will be in private schools in the fall. Different city -- different options! They'll be at a funky little school with animals and a green house and no bells -- and this is for middle school and high school! And we'll be living in a state with poor funding for education, so the public school classes are 50% bigger than here.
For the most part, where we currently live, private schools are just a traditional education with less differentation and more stress over test scores. What I like least about traditional education is MORE true of the private schools where we currently live.
My DS is only 2.5 and for right now Im thinking that we will go to public. To begin with I belief in the public school ideal and my sending my son there I am committing to that ideal.
Public schools have their issues but if we abandon them they will never be fixed. Public schools also offer students the opportunity to see their world since there is more of a chance of meeting and interacting with a cross section of people in terms of race, culture, gender, socio-economic levels etc. although districts may differ.
I will say this though, if I thought that the public school environment was not the best place for my child (depends on the child and the district) I would definitely choose another another option if I could afford to do so. But my first choice would be for public education.
Originally Posted by mommyshoppinghabit
but then I see a lot of parents opt to do earlier years in public school and put their kids into private school in middle or high school. Is that strictly to save money?
my kids are in middle school. I could be wrong, but I think that many parents try public and decide it isn't working, and then switch. If you can't decide, it makes sense to try the less expensive option *first.*
Also, the pressures and behavoirs of the other kids became a bigger issue the older the kids get. Many parents believe that by opting for private, their children's exposure to sex, drugs, etc. will be less. (I don't know if that is true, but many parents hope it is). These are things that parents of 6 year olds aren't worried about, but by 13 or so, many parents want to shelter a bit.
In the earlier grades, most all schools provide a lot of hand holding for children. As kids get older, public schools expect kids to become more independent. Classes get bigger and teachers have less direct contact. Some teens easily get lost in the crowd. Many private school provide more hand holding in the upper grades, so kids who can't/won't take responsiblity for themselves are more likely to have teachers who help them out and do their best to make the child successful. (I know several families who've opted for private for this reasons.) My variation on that is I have a child who can go through her whole day and not speak, so I want her where teachers work to draw her out.
But for me, it really comes down to the schools in your area and your child. There isn't a *right* answer. I'm not even sure that the same option is right for both my kids.
Not sure whether you are interested in a pre-school perspective, but we opted for the local (nominally Catholic, but publicly funded) pre-school over a language immersion International school IB early years program that sounded really really good and that people I talked to raved about.
Even though we could have afforded the private school with some pinching here and there and some upping of work hours, cost was still a major factor as the tuition was literally ten times as much as the very reasonable charge at the publicly funded school. I felt that for that price, the program better be perfect. But there were drawbacks compared to the public program: no mixed-age classrooms, inflexible hours (they insisted they would not do halfdays even for three-year-olds), insistence on kids being completely toilet trained and having to change themselves in case of an accident even though they had a Dec 31 cutoff and thus took two-year-olds and altogether a slightly cold and off-putting "our program is perfect who needs flexibility" vibe from the headteacher. I would have liked the language immersion and the swimming lessons, but decided that I was fluent in the target language myself after all and could do a lot of enrichment for the money saved.
The public school headteacher simply came across as very experienced but at the same time very open-minded, who listened to my concerns, for instance about whether my noise-sensitive kid would handle their much bigger classroom and would say things like "well we always used to do x but it sounds like that wouldn't work for him so maybe we can accomodate him by doing y" and they haven't only talked the talk but walked the walk. And it's right around the corner!
I still regret not trying out the other program sometimes, especially as I find that good classes in the line of the enrichment I was thinking about are hard to come by, and teaching a foreign language as a parent isn't so easy either. But DS is happy so far and really enjoys the neighbourhood aspect!
I've had similar discussions with friends/family. Some feel the beginning school years need to be a small, nurturing, more sheltered environment (i.e. private school) whereas others think K-5 is more or less the same no matter what school, so send the kids to public to save $ for middle/high/college where differentiating classes, instruction, etc is more important. Plus there's always the "notoriety" that comes with certain private high schools in terms of when the kids apply to college.
We could have afforded religious private for K, but not the really pricey private ones around here. I felt I was leaning towards private originally for DS for the more sheltered experience, the fear of the big public school, and some notion that I was giving him a better education because I had to pay for it. I'm glad he's now at the public school, but I still think back and forth about things from time to time. My son is learning a LOT and so many of the fears of public are overblown and dramaticized, IMO, I trully think ALL schools suffer from some sort of the issues we all worry about, like bullying, getting lost in the system, learning coersion (minus democratic schools), etc. And as others mentioned when you are in schools were there are less of certain things (expensive private with small class sizes) something else becomes a problem, like affluence, not enough diversity, etc.
I'd recommend looking at your child first for what environment he would do well in, then thinking about private/public for the long term second.
I believe in finding the best fit - the most suitable learning environment - for a child.
We've tried private school. I liked the academic focus, the extra communication with parents (when parents are paying, the school seems to want to show what you are paying for), and some creative educational opportunities that were offered.
I didn't like paying large additional levies for building funds, grounds maintenance, and facility fees - labs, sports equipment, library, computers, etc. in addition to the annual tuition. I didn't like the expectation that we would also fundraise for these things, in addition to paying the additional levies. It seemed like there was a constant hand reaching into my pocket. Many people complain about paying extra fees and fundraising in public schools, but IME, it's much worse in private schools. I was also unimpressed by the atmosphere of entitlement that permeated the student body and the parents - clothes, jewelry, iPods and game systems, expensive vacations, joining private clubs and dining in expensive restaurants....
IME, private schools market themselves as offering academically enriched programs. They tend to squeeze out the students with learning disabilities because they can't keep up. By the same token, they are less likely to offer truly specialized gifted programs, because every parent thinks their child is academically gifted - so they all want any advanced or enriched classes available to their children, whether they would be identified gifted or not. While the academic focus was more intense than public school, I found that it didn't serve specialized populations at either end of the spectrum.
Having said that, though, there are some good private schools in our area that have a niche market for special learning needs. There are a couple of private gifted schools, and several schools for learning disabled students. I think the key is finding the right placement for the student.
We've been happy with the public schools. There are always things that could be improved - communication with parents varies. That's actually getting better with e-mail and website updates. The good experiences outweigh the bad though. My dc have attended gifted programs with teachers with special training and lots of experience with this population. They've had access to interesting learning opportunities. Their fellow students are diverse - both in learning styles and culturally. The schools have been open to parental input - possibly because there seems to be more accountability and oversight - we can take issues up with school board supervisors and/or elected trustees if we aren't satisfied with a school's response to a problem. Private schools with wait lists seem to be less responsive - you can leave and pull your money, but they have another family to replace you if you decide to go.
The only good private schools here are around $25K/year. There are cheaper religious schools, but they are inferior to our public school in every way I can name.
Even if money were no object, I don't think I'd send my kids to the very expensive private school. They are single gender, which isn't what I want for my dds. I also want my kids in a more diverse atmosphere.
Just came back from another open house at the private school that is closest to us. It has great facilities, is non-sectarian, is pre-K through 12th, and is currently renovating the middle and upper schools into the state's only LEED certified "green" school facilities. Granted I didn't talk to the teachers (which really bugs me about these open houses) but I just felt like I have no idea what I would be getting for the money other than my son gets to attend a really prestigious school on really prestigious grounds with very affluent kids.
My son is 4 now. He is bright and sensitive but still popular at the preschool he goes to now. I could steer him in the right direction even if he attends a public school that is less than stellar in terms of education and self-esteem, but only if there wasn't a really tough social situation he was dealing with or unresponsive teachers.
I visited another school yesterday that is a Friends school (Quaker). I love the philosophy and the K-2nd grade facilities and teachers seemed fantastic, but it only goes up to 6th grade and by the 3rd grade, they are in an old-looking cramped house for class where everything is jammed into the hallways and corners. And knowing that I would have to decide all over again in the 6th grade where to next send him after that is a huge turn-off.
I have a Montessori school right down the street from me, but it just looks so old and the classrooms look so sparse and not well- funded. Am I just being too superficial? Again, if ds went there, I would have to look for another school once he reaches 6th grade. But I've read so many good things about Montessori on this board. I don't know if that approach is necessary for ds, but it couldn't hurt, right?
I don't really know anyone in this community to ask about the inside scoop on our school district and the one in the next townwhip over. So how do I get a feel for public schools? Do public elementary schools give tours?
I have kids in public and private, and for us it's totally not about cost, it's about what setting best suits what child.
It's impossible to generalize, since options vary so much by location, and there are plenty of very good and very bad schools in public, private, and parochial.
This fall I will have one child in a private elementary school and one in a public elementary. I agree that it's about finding the right fit for your child.
And to answer your question, yes, public schools give tours!
Well, I live in an affluent area with great public schools. About 96% of the people in this school district use it.
My kids go to a private Montessori school. The whole decision is about much more than public vs. private. I had several reasons for choosing the school that I chose for my boys and it's a perfect fit and well worth the tuition IMO. That's not to say that the public school would have been bad, but I didn't feel like it was a perfect fit. It is also something that needs to be reevaluated from time to time to make sure the fit is still good.
We could afford a private education but we are fundamentally opposed to private schools. The private schools in our area seem to be more of a party zone with indulging parents with little supervision.
All that, you get out of ANY schooling system what you put into it. If our public schools were not as good as they are, I would be in the classroom helping much more.
As it is, we provided a high protein non nutted snack for our older children's classrooms though the 4th grade, helping with reading, homework club, helped the teachers (who all have MA or MS) with grading work and supplies. We probably spent 200 a month in their classrooms.... an investment that was an honor.
Both my kids attend a reform jewish preschool right now, so it straddles the fence in terms of quality, I think. Both of them seem to be getting along quite well there. That's not to say I will continue them in a religious school. I just can't get my head around what is the "ideal" setting for them, and even if I could, I don't think that exists. Would they do good in a Montessori setting? Quite possibly, but the Montessori school near us seems old and tattered looking. Could they do good in the local public school system? Quite possibly. We live in a nice community, somewhat upper-middle class. The district has won these "blue ribbons" although I have no idea what that's worth to me. There are some Quaker schools near me that philosophically speaking, offer a great environment, but either b/c of location or facilities, aren't a good match in my mind for my ds's. So it almost boils down to biting the bullet and just trying what seems to be the best choice for one year and see how that goes. But I don't think it's fair to keep pulling them out of one environment and sticking them in another. What I had wanted when I first started looking was a place they could attend all the way up to 12th. I wanted consistency
We aren't into elementary school yet, but the options we are considering for the year after next are the Waldorf school and the public school I teach in. I have some reservations about both schools. Currently I'm leaning to my school. I think if I'm going to spend that much money on school it should be PERFECT. And the Waldorf school is not. I also think that if we aren't spending the money on school we would have more available for other experiences like traveling or music lessons or whatever.
OP-- I think you should seriously consider setting up visits when student are learning and teachers are teaching.
I think the condition of the facilities can sometimes mislead people in a variety of ways.
I always assumed we would send my kids to Catholic school. We have a large Catholic School system in my town and I felt the price was very reasonable.
But as my son started approaching K age I decided to take a look at all our options. I ended up discovering that our public school system has open enrollment (well the whole state actually does). Our district offers a lot of different school options at the elementary level. They have a math and science school, a fine arts focused school, a VS learning environment program, a full time gifted program, a parental involvement focused, a Spanish immersion program, etc.
With all the options in the public schools and with the knowledge that my son was probably going to require some gifted services and differentiation the public schools started looking like an option.
Then I looked at the Catholic schools and they had class sizes that were comparable to the public schools and not a whole lot of differentiation for either below average or advanced students. Though there were always willing to talk with me about our concerns
I eventually decided on the public schools and we did end up placing my son in the full time gifted program.
In a couple years we will reevaluate what all the options provide. We plan to look at continuing with the public schools, the catholic school system, and a new middle school program that is more a college prep style school.
It's my humble opinion that school only accounts for a fraction of the education your child gets. There's many ideas to be gotten from the book:Guerilla Learning - How to Give Your Kids a Real Education With or Without School.
I think it might help you relax about what schooling options you choose. It's less about the school and more about the attitudes you and your spouse have for learning.
What I think the goal is to encourage life-long love of learning. The schools don't "teach" this. It's not in a book and you can't memorize it. Nor would I want them to. It has to be a lifestyle, I think, not just what you do between the bells.
We learn as a family, even though my daughters go to a public school. They learn lots of things outside of school too, by going on family field trips, doing backyard nature exploration, growing flowers from seeds, raising toads from tadpoles, collected from an aunt's pond in her backyard.
Originally Posted by Miss Information
I think it might help you relax about what schooling options you choose. It's less about the school and more about the attitudes you and your spouse have for learning.
I like your post.
My kids have homeschooled, they currently attend a traditional public school, and next year they will attend a private alternative school. There are good things about bad things about all the options, but the most important factor really is the family.
I like MissInformation's post too. I really do agree that learning and love of learning has its foundation in parental attitudes about the same. I also think that people tend to put the idea of learning or education into a box - rather than view it as an organic, life-long pursuit. DD is in a private school right now (pre-school through 8th grade equivalent), but we certainly aren't ruling out the possibility of public school if and when the circumstances permit. Our goal is to provide her with the best fit for her - and perhaps the school she is attending right now will not be right for her a few years down the road. Our approach is not whether public is better or private is better, but what is best for her at a given time and place. We live in a city where the public school system has generally gotten a bad rap over a long period of time. It seems that is changing and I think part of it is that more parents are becoming actively invested in the education system.
Originally Posted by mommyshoppinghabit
Would they do good in a Montessori setting? Quite possibly, but the Montessori school near us seems old and tattered looking.
The first charter school we visited was scary looking. It was practically under an intersecting overpass, in the middle of a parking lot, and appeared to be a converted store with no playground.
We were actually quite impressed with what was going on inside as far as curriculum and instruction. We later found out that the school was only two years old and was putting in a playground for next year.
The second (sister) school we visited looked fabulous, but they were a few years older; they had also begun in an old store.
I actually preferred some things about the "store" school; I liked their reading period in the morning, that they started language instruction earlier, and the uniform code was a little more particular (easier for me). But the "nice" school was easier to get to (traffic wise) and dh would be able to drive him (and is close by to deal with discipline issues) so I was hoping for the "nice" one...and they ended up offering ds a place (the "store" school had not).
Ds' current school is brand new with all the bells and whistles including a purpose built stage but the environment just is not right for him, and there is still another school is being built down the street from us; if the "store" school had been the only one to offer a spot we would have taken it.
I agree with others that it's more about the specific schools than about generalizations. It's also about different kids. My parents were huge supporters of public education, but my the time my sister and I were in 4th and 9th grade respectively, it was obvious that we were being totally failed by our very good public schools. I was put in a private high school, and my sister in a very good prek-8 school.
For me it turned out very well. I blossomed in the very small environment (the largest class I had there I believe had 14 students, the smallest had just me), very academically intensive. I loved it because it was very diverse in many ways, unlike the very white and very upper middle class public school I was attending (it was more like the very diverse elementary school I attended). I probably would have just wilted and not gone anywhere after high school if I had stayed in public school, despite having very educated and academic-oriented parents.
The less said about my sister's private school experience the better. She got an amazing education, but was horribly bullied and still carries scars. My parents learned nothing about it until she had left (though the whole school knew), and they decided to put her back in public. She really blossomed being a small fish in a big pond.
My daughter attended a private Montessori prek-8 this year, and we are hopefully moving her to another private Montessori next year. Even besides the Montessori philosophy, I appreciate these school's diversity. My town is pretty white, and all of the people of color I know send their children to private schools, with the exception of a friend who is Hispanic but has a severely SN child who gets her needs met through the public schools. A good private will also work hard to make sure that there is economic diversity, in the form of recruiting and funding students whose parents otherwise wouldn't be able to afford it. One of our complaints with the school we are leaving is that they don't seem interested in this at all. In my personal experience of public schools in a range of communities, the "rich kids" self-segregate socially and the "poor kids" get grouped into the lowest reading level and are largely ignored. I know this isn't true of all public schools everywhere, but my personal opinion is that a good private school will work very hard to make sure that this doesn't happen.
I think that a child can get a very good education and be well socialized in both public and private schools. I think there are a lot of bad public schools and a lot of bad private schools. But I also think that a really good private school is a better environment, both academically and socially, than a really good private school. If the choice is between an eh private or a pretty good private and a great public, I would go public. If the choice is between a really good private and even a really good public, I would go private.
We chose public school because frankly they are better than the private school options here. The teachers are certified, they have more experience, they are paid better, and they are more capable, as a whole, of differentiating their teaching to individual kids. We are lucky to live in a great area with lots of involved parents and smart kids. We spent 2 years at a private pre-K thinking we'd go to grade school there, but the more research we did, we realized that the only advantage of the private school was smaller class sizes. This did not matter that much to us, after weighing all aspects. For some kids, a small class size would be really important, but not so much for my DD.