How far would you drive your kid to go to a really great private elementary school? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 22 Old 08-30-2010, 12:06 AM - Thread Starter
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Just curious about others' opinions on this. My child is still only a baby but I like to sometimes think of where I will educate him when he is older.
The local public school in my town is not that appealing to me. There is a great private school that I could probably send my child to, but the drive is pretty long.
My main concern is having the child spend too much time daily in the car, as well as having to have a quick transition out of the house in the mornings to get to school on time.

so it would be between homeschooling, which I am not inclined to do, a closer school that I didn't like very much, or a pretty big commute, but a great school.

this is one of those things I will figure out as my child gets closer to school age. I am just sort of day dreaming about this good school- and wondering others' experiences of how far a resonable commute to school would be for the young elementary school time.
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#2 of 22 Old 08-30-2010, 12:35 AM
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OTOH, I did go to a private high school that was 30 minutes away. I took public transportation or carpooled a good portion of the time, however.

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#3 of 22 Old 08-30-2010, 12:37 AM
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Can you be sure your child will gain entrance to the private school?

Can you move closer to the private school?

Is what they offer worth the cost of tuition?

I honestly wouldn't drive my kid more than 15 0r 20 minutes to school.... mornings are tough on my kids as is... adding a long commute would most likely mean they'd go to school mad/anxious or frustrated.
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#4 of 22 Old 08-30-2010, 01:10 AM
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That would depend on a couple of factors for me:

- when you say the private school is good, what does that mean?
- exactly how long is the commute?
- what is the school close by actually like?

I'd also be concerned about friends being far away.
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#5 of 22 Old 08-30-2010, 03:34 AM
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Are you only planning one child? It gets complicated when you have a couple. You will be co-ordinating different schedules. A younger sibling may spend hours in the car while you drive the older one to school and to extra-curricular activities, playdates and birthday parties - since classmates and friends are likely to live further away.

Once you have 2 or 3 children in school, then driving them everywhere and conflicting schedules becomes a real challenge. Adding in a lengthy commute complicates things further.
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#6 of 22 Old 08-30-2010, 03:46 AM
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I traveled up to an hour each way as a child to a top-notch private school, it was worth every moment.

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#7 of 22 Old 08-30-2010, 09:35 AM
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Personally, I'd move to be in a good public school district. I'd rather save our education dollars for college.
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#8 of 22 Old 08-30-2010, 10:24 AM
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I think that school is just one factor of a child's intellectual well-being, and I fear spending a long time on a commute takes the child away from other things that are really important--like free play and participating in household/family activities. That being said, I don't know what it's like to live a really far distance from a decent school. My elementary is fine (not outstanding, but good enough for now), and I have three excellent Quaker schools within a less-than-30 minute drive, along with a lot of other parochial schools. There are other schools on the other side of Philadelphia (including a Waldorf school), but I can't imagine that they would be worth the drive for us.

ETA: Just realized it was you, Katie. I think we've got a while before our March babes need school!

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#9 of 22 Old 08-30-2010, 10:42 AM
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We opted for homeschool rather than drive 45 minutes one way to kindergarten. For me, there was the cost of gas and the environmental impact to consider, but also we have to think about after-school activities, parties, etc. We would be committing to many, many more trips. Also there is the additional wear & tear on the car. I've had heavy commutes into work, and it's just not a fun experience.

I'd say, too, that you don't know what will be the best for your family until you're farther down the road. Our public schools are solid. They're not excellent, but they provide a good basic education, and I think for many children, they work fine. So unless the public school near you is awful, it may work out in the end.

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#10 of 22 Old 08-30-2010, 11:07 AM
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I think you have to wait until closer to the time to figure out what is best for your whole family.

I have two kids who attended the same school last year. It was close to our house. None the less, my life revolved around driving them back and forth.

DD#2 started at the beginning of the day, and I drove her over. DD#1 has special needs and had a reduced school day, so after dropping DD#2 off, I drove DD#1 to the Y were she did PE privately, had breakfast, got ready for her day, and then I drove her to school.

DD#1 ended school at the regular end of school time, so I drove over and picked her up, and took her home. DD#2 was in tons of activities, so I picked her up later, sometimes from other schools that were further away.

Remember that schools they have activities with may be 30 minutes further away. DD#2 was on chess team last year, and the tournaments were so far away that I felt like I needed to get the car serviced before I went to pick her up!

The school was 10 minutes from our house and it still drove me bonkers.

We relocated this summer for DH's job. We carefully checked out schools before we moved here and picked one out, then rented a house within walking distance!

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#11 of 22 Old 08-30-2010, 01:49 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Maluhia View Post
I traveled up to an hour each way as a child to a top-notch private school, it was worth every moment.
This is what I am hoping for! Thanks for all the responses.

I know it is very early to think about school but at the same time it is something I have thought about even before I had a child- where will I send my kids to school when I have kids.

the thing is, we live in an area where everything is far away. Moving is not what I want to do as I like where I live a lot! I feel that I am in the right place to live.

One of the drawbacks of where I live is lots of driving to get anywhere- as it is a rural area. However there are tons of plusses to where I live so I have accepted this factor.
So, for perspective- the local public school is a 15 minute drive. To go to get groceries or to the main "town" is a 25 minute drive. This is something I do a few times a week (used to be every day before baby but now I stay home lots more)
Anyway- the great school is an additional 12 minutes beyond where we drive to get groceries, see movies, shop, visit people- etc. there is a main bigger town, with smaller towns around it. I live in one direction from the bigger town, one town over. The school I like is one town beyond the big town in the other direction.

So at any rate, like we have said- I will see how it goes as my baby gets older. We are not sure yet if we will have additional kids, that is still up in the air.
The school is great because- I guess it just has everything I am seeking in a school! I feel lucky that such a school is potentially available to my child. small classrooms, great teachers, good academics and creative inspired teaching- which is something I want in a school. I have visited it, read their entire curriculum, and know a good number of people whose kids attend it.

So the bottom line is that I would love for my child to be able to attend the school, but I will have to see if it can work given the circumstances.
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#12 of 22 Old 08-30-2010, 02:38 PM
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My DD's private school is about 25 minutes away and we don't love the drive but we also don't love our options for public education at the moment. The school is closer to my work than our house so it's kind of on the way, anyway.

DD doesn't get frustrated to and from school, in the mornings she entertains herself in the back seat or we talk, in the afternoons she has a snack, falls asleep and gets a little cat nap on the way home.

As for friends, some of the school's kids live in the area of the school but many don't so it's not really the case of it being a "neighbourhood" school, people from different areas choose to send their kids there. We do have to drive here and there to go to different events (birthdays, playdates etc) but that's how it has always been so we're used to it.

I could see how, when she gets older, living a distance from the school could be an issue, but for now it works. I travelled quite a distance on public transportation for a great school...ideally we'd live down the block but that just isn't realistic for us at the moment. We're hoping to move closer to the general area of the school in years to come, hopefully before our next one starts school, but IMO a great school is more important than the conveniece of having a school down the street you're not enthusiastic about.

And, FWIW, I started looking at schools when DD was 18 months old, so I feel like looking early is great if you're into it.

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#13 of 22 Old 08-30-2010, 04:23 PM
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Well for an amazing preschool we are driving 25 mins each way and that is about all I can handle. Anything more than that and I would move closer. DS handles it pretty well, but in the mornings, after only 10 mins, he starts in on the 'are we there yet' routine. Afternoons he is too tired to care.
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#14 of 22 Old 08-30-2010, 04:36 PM
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I drive my DS 10 minutes to elementary (not our home school) and DD 25 minutes to High School. Both are in public schools but specialty magnets. It's totally worth it not just for the academics but the social fit. Their friends are spread out around the county but they are kids who share real interests and passions with them.

We also commute about 25 minutes to the kids activities. Again, worth it to be in the program that really suits them. I've learned to really enjoy our commutes because it's the time we really talk. The car configuration makes it less formal and the kids are relaxed and talk more freely.

It's not for everyone. We have friends who refuse to leave the community for ANYTHING their kids do. For us though, it's worth the mileage.

Married mom, DD 18, DS 15, and a Valentine's surprise on the way!
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#15 of 22 Old 08-30-2010, 05:31 PM
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How long is the drive to this school? My kid's private elementary school is a 20 minute drive one way. So I am driving 40 minutes twice a day and they are in the car a total of 40 minutes a day. For us it is worth it. We would never consider public school unless something drastically changed in our life circumstances and we have given up a lot to have them attend private school.

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#16 of 22 Old 08-31-2010, 11:11 AM
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I drive 25ish minutes (in the AM, its just about 20 or less at midday). I searched first for schools within 30 minutes, but I would have done more if neccessary. We live in a metropolitan area and we live in a woodsy suburb so most things are a bit of drive for me anyway.

I do not regret for a second anything about sending my boys to their private school. I am simply not a fan of traditional public school education (both for NCLB reasons and b/c I do not think that traditional education is the best model for early elementary school). My boys go to a Montessori school and we are thrilled with it. I am used to the drive and would not do anything different.

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#17 of 22 Old 09-01-2010, 10:15 PM
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What I find interesting here is that everyone's definition of a "long drive" is quite different! We drove 20 minutes to DS's wonderful preschool (which he attended all day, 5 days/week), and it never occurred to either DH or me that this was a long drive. Where we live, everything is a "country drive" - and yes, this meant frequent weekend playdates, birthday parties, etc. 40 minutes away, but that didn't seem like a dealbreaker for us. Hey, my son now has great buddies spread out over a 3-county area!!!

DS is starting kindergarten at our local elementary school this year, and though we live in the best district in our area (by which I mean, a drive of 45 minutes in any direction), I still have some doubts (which I am keeping quiet about until I see how it goes for him). I have quietly checked out private schools, and yes, with only one kid we could actually afford the astonishingly high tuition (now that we are not paying for FT daycare) - but for family reasons, moving is not an option right now. And what I've seen that I like is an hour away. So - do the math - that's 4 hours in a car, on a daily basis, for us parents, unless we can manage some kind of car pool situation. Despite the wonderfulness of the private school, and my private misgivings about the local public option, I just don't think I can stomach 4 hours a day commuting for 1st seems like we'd be better off staying in an ok public school (which I might add is walking distance from the house), and supplementing that with lots of cultural/scientific project-based learning on our own.
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#18 of 22 Old 09-08-2010, 04:58 PM
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Quick answer: 40 min. and very worth it

Last year DD did her "kindergarten" year in a half-day preschool class for 4 & 5 year olds (she turned 6 In Jan. that school year) and it took us 40 min. to get there from home. This year she will go to a private school just around the corner from preschool where DS will now attend. Since it was such a long drive, DS and I are nomads up in "the big city" and we had a great time. Every day we went to museums, parks, playgrounds, libraries, and a few errands here and there. There were times when we wished we could just stay home, but usually once we got going we enjoyed ourselves.

Regarding the commute itself, the time spent from out-the-door at home to in-the-door at class is *LESS* than the bus ride. We spend the commute time chatting, listening to books on tape/disc, coloring, etc. It's a really great time to chat since you have a captive audience. I think that will become invaluable as the kids get older.

Regarding playdates -four things.
1.) With longer school days, kids around here do not have after-school playdates much at all.
2.) We keep in touch with the community via a local playgroup and after-school activities.
3.) With a private school & lots of parent-pickups, it makes it easy to have lots of short play dates right on the school grounds. Our public school friends rarely do this, they all take the bus home.
4.) Once you've gotten to know a family, and the kids are old enough, they can go home with a school-friend for a playdate

We joined a local playgroup when DD was 13 months, and have stayed friends with 4 families that we really hit it off with (original playgroup lasted for about 3 years, and consisted of about a dozen families - we still enjoy running into each other at the library, store, etc.). You could also meet local families at the library (many have infant or toddler story times), mom-orientated clubs (Holistic Moms, Moms in Motion, MOMS Club, etc.).

DD & DS did Kindermusik & library story times when they were little, and DD enjoyed a local Lacrosse team this past Spring. This Fall she is signing up for the local hockey team. Our local friends see us outside of school more than they see pretty much any other friends.

Kids spend such a huge amount of their childhood that I think it's so important to send them to the best environment you can manage. Every family has to decide for themselves what their limits are, and what is the best fit.

As for what to do once both kids are in full-day school, I hope to get a job in the area near their school. So we'd all commute together.

Feel free to PM me if you want to chat more.

(p.s. We live in a very good school district, with a large enrollment and lots of great programs - it's just not the educational philosophy that fits with our family.)
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#19 of 22 Old 09-08-2010, 06:43 PM
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I know you're not asking specifically about private vs. public, but rather focusing on the time spent driving. However, just wanted to add that though a school can look great on the website & during a tour, there may be hidden problems that are not evident until you actually attend. This was the case for us. I so wanted my child to attend a particular pre-K through 5th grade school based on their whole-child philosophy, but once we were actually enrolled for a year, multiple problems were revealed. The school demanded a huge commitment from us both financially and time-wise, and in the long run wasn't worth it. Now he's enrolled in a public school kindergarten, and it's wonderful! I was terrified to make the public school plunge, but it has proved to be the best choice for our family. And it's free & w/in one mile of our house.

What I would do.... try to speak w/ as many families as possible enrolled in both schools, and get feedback from people who actually attend. I wrote the entire PTA of my son's current school in order to get specific info about the public school, and thus had lots of additional info that helped us in our decision-making. I also emailed the principal and specific teachers. If you solicit input from multiple parents of both schools, you'll probably have a clear answer as to whether the drive is worth it.
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#20 of 22 Old 09-08-2010, 09:23 PM
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We live about 2 miles from ds old school inside our neighborhood; ds spent an hour on the bus each morning and 20-30min in the afternoon. The charter he goes to now is a 12-15 drive (mostly highway which is nice) and dh drops him off on the way to work.

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#21 of 22 Old 09-08-2010, 09:33 PM
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I drive my kids to a choice program in the public schools. So it's a little like private in that it's like a mini-charter, but we only have to pay $200/yr for 3 kids instead of $30k (I've got 3 kids, I don't know of any privates around here that are less than 10k a year once you get out of kindy). I never imagined I would do that--my initial plan was to homeschool (I still have tons of resources that I'd gotten over the years in order to be ready to meet state requirements at 1st grade..). But wow, when I heard about this program I knew it would be a great fit, and it is. Driving 15-20 minutes (depending on traffic) is so worth it. If it wasn't a good fit, it wouldn't be.

A lot can change in 4 or 5 years--including school quality, and you discovering things about your kid's learning style. You know how much car time you and your child can deal with (though again, that will change over time possibly, either up or down). I'd advise driving that route during the exact time of day you'd need to to get an idea (there's often extra traffic around the school during school commute times that can add up to 10 minutes extra or more, depending on how well the traffic flow is for dropoff/parking)--but it probably makes more sense to do it closer to the time (esp. if there is any chance of new developments going in around the school and/or a lot of foreclosure instability in the area--even with a private school, folks are going to be going to work and such so patterns might change over time).

But no one else is going to be able to answer "will it be worth it to YOU," since they aren't you! I love my kids' program. I might be willing to drive 30 minutes (not including extra traffic) but probably not more than that, since I HATE driving and my kids like to do after school activities (meaning we have to be able to get to where they are in a timely manner--might not be possible depending on where they are, if it takes me 45 minutes to get home or to the activities). Did I mention that I thought that I would not allow my children to sign up for any after school activities in early elementary because I wans't going to be one of "those people" who "overscheduled" their "poor kids"?
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#22 of 22 Old 09-09-2010, 10:25 AM
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I pulled my son out of 4th grade public school (last October) 3 minutes from my house (by car) to put him in a private school (12-15 minutes from my house).

It was a 1,000% percent improvement. He thrived.

He really hated public school. It's a highly rated, local public school, but he didn't care for the cookie-style approach. Not for his learning style. The private school was what he needed on many different levels. We were all set to keep him there through middle school. Sadly, after 3 decades, low enrollment, etc... the school closed.

He is in another local private school (10 minutes away) and he loves it. Worth it.

My daughter is in the local public school and fingers crossed everything will work out better for her. She's a different kid.

Homeschooling or private school is not in the cards for her right now.

~ ~ ~

and for years I drove them to an OUTSTANDING local preschool (parent co-op, half day, less expensive) 15 minutes each way. Worth every minute. Not easy, but worth it.

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