The School Debate

With Tad’s education in hand for at least the next couple of years, thanks to the special education program that our local school district has, the Webmaster and I are having to turn our complete attention to Ane’s future.

The question being, public school or private school?

Now, the Webmaster and I both attended public school, aside from our time in preschool (which, in the late 70’s/early 80’s, did not have the same perception of being as “necessary” as it does now). Nowadays, our local school district does offer preschool classes, but they cost just as much as any private preschool. Since the district isn’t mandated or funded to provide it, they have to pay for it the same way any private school does – through tuition.

I truly believe that a child who is motivated, and who has involved parents, can receive an excellent education in the public school system.

I just don’t know if that education is what I want for Ane.

She currently attends a private Christian preschool (which Auntie also attended over ten years ago), but the preschool is a part of a whole private school institution, which has two elementary schools, a junior high and a high school. All the schools are accredited and recognized by the state. Because Ane currently attends the preschool, she is virtually guaranteed a spot in the kindergarten class. The Webmaster and I have already made a decision on half-day versus full-day kindergarten – we’re going with half-day, wherever she goes.

A week ago, the Webmaster took the morning off, we dropped the kids off with my mother (Grandma took Ane to school and watched Tad for us), and we went to the kindergarten open house at the private school. We, along with many other parents, met the principal, both kindergarten teachers, got to see the kindergarten classrooms, and were treated to a tour of the campus and a peek into each grade’s classrooms (the school goes up to 6th grade). The Webmaster was one of only two dads in attendance, and I was incredibly glad that he was there. There was so much information and so many impressions to gather that there was no way that I could have relayed all of it to him.

The bottom line is, if money were no object, we would send Ane there in a heartbeat. We were very impressed by the school and the whole atmosphere on campus. I could see Ane enjoying herself and learning in that kindergarten classroom.

(Of course, we can’t talk to her about kindergarten right now. She is refusing to leave preschool. When I told her that she will have “finished” preschool and will need to move on to kindergarten at the end of the school year, she said, “But when I’m done with preschool, I can teach there!” Umm, no, kiddo. That’s not how this works.)

However, since money IS an object, and tuition money does not grow on trees, and Washington state has no voucher programs, we are considering all our options.

I have heard good things about our local elementary school, and I called them today to ask if we could have a similar type of tour/observation that we had at the private school there. They’ll be getting back to us. There are kindergarten meetings for the school district, but they are close to the end of February and we have to make a decision well before that. Plus, the kindergarten meetings are held at the high school in the evenings, so we’re not even getting to see how the class that Ane would potentially attend operates.

There are many factors that are playing into our decision:
1) If we choose private school, we don’t want to pull Ane out after kindergarten. At a minimum, and our finances permitting, we would commit (mentally – the school does not ask for a commitment of any kind) to letting her attend the school through the 6th grade. Obviously, if something financially catastrophic occurred, we would have to pull her out. But the idea is that if we send her there, we are going to try to keep her there.

2) We are going to receive a tuition break if we choose private school, since we are coming directly from the preschool. However, tuition will double when she enters 1st grade, because she will be there for a full day. Half-day kindergarten is – you guessed it – half the regular tuition. And while there are caps on how much they will raise tuition each year, we know it will go up.

3) If we choose private school, we know that Ane will be going to a morning kindergarten class. I have no idea how the public school determines who goes to morning versus afternoon kindergarten. I would definitely prefer morning kindergarten, especially since Tad’s schedule is unlikely to change and he would still be in morning preschool. Then both kids would be home in the afternoon, and could take naps if necessary.

4) I have no idea what kind of teacher Ane could have in public school. My gut feeling with this girl has always been that she needs a teacher who will pray for her, and maybe she would have that kind of teacher in public school. However, there are no guarantees. And while I plan on being an involved parent, I can’t determine what kind of teacher she could have. This is why I’m really hoping that we can go observe the kindergarten class at the public school, and possibly meet the teachers. I had some really great elementary school teachers, and I had some who were not that great and may have been marking time until retirement. I was a motivated learner and probably would have done well in almost any environment. Ane is not like me, and I’m in a quandry trying to decide what would be the best environment for her. I want her to continue to love school, and to love to learn. The right teachers will ensure that that continues for her.

5) Home schooling is out of the question. I am not opposed to it in any way, but I cannot be Ane’s primary teacher. I’m her mother, and she needs other authority figures in her life. She is also far too socially oriented, and I think that home schooling would do her a disservice at this point in time.

6) With Tad already in the school district system, it would be nice to have both kids on the same vacation schedule (which they are not this year AT ALL). He is extremely unlikely to ever attend private school, because they simply couldn’t support his need for speech therapy and special education. Strangely, the odds are that Tad will likely not attend the elementary school closest to us, because they have special ed kindergartens at other schools that they usually want to send kids like Tad to. So, the kids would never attend the same school together, whether Ane goes to public or private school.

As you can see, the Webmaster and I have a lot to think about and think over. And we don’t have a lot of time to do it. Hopefully, our visit to the public school will happen in the next week or so, because that will help us a lot in making our final decision.

And if anyone wants to share their opinion or their anecdote, the comments are open and waiting.

4 Responses to “The School Debate”

  1. Ressis
    January 23rd, 2009 07:48

    That’s a tough one. It seems to me that Ane would do best in private school, mostly because you know what you are getting and with public school it’s a crap shoot. But the cost and vacation schedules are big factors too.

    If it were my kids, and who knows I may be in a similar situation in three or four years, I would put Ane in private school. Of course, you have a much better outlook on public schools than I do. Oddball and I want to go private school all the way for our kids, but all that is yet to be seen. The Army could put us in an area with great public schools.

    And for those who don’t know, Oddball’s parents work in public school and he thinks very poorly of the system.

  2. tibby
    January 23rd, 2009 08:34

    I raised 2 sons in the public school system. There is sooo much wrong there. And while it’s been a while, I do still have a couple of friends that are teachers within the public school system. They are wonderful understanding teachers, but they are VERY ham-strung by the BS that trickles down. Also very frustrated and angry at what the system has become. One is older than I am, and her child went to public school. The other 3 have children in school now, and they all either attend the one the parent works at, which gives them better control over how and what they learn, or the children go to private school.

    If I had to do it over, I’d opt for private.

    Also, if it is really a financial burden, maybe you can inlist some help from the grandparents? I do know of a couple of people who do this. The grandparents are thrilled to be able to make a difference in the kids lives.

  3. Dale
    January 23rd, 2009 20:01

    We are just slightly ahead of you with one child in the school system. And are in the Northshore SD. Also having spoken with other neighbors and parents in NSD.
    1. NSD is one of the better School districts in the area, although budgets are being slashed everywhere.
    2. Frank Love has full day K. And is the closest school with special needs classes. It is supposively a pretty good school. The neighbor girls goes there instead of Crystal Springs.
    3. Crystal Springs – Big Jay will be there next year, as well the neighbor girl may change to there.
    4. Northshore Homeschool Networks. I know you said only after you pull out your hair, BUT Little Mo will do this next year while Big J moves on to Crystal Springs. Keep in mind that the Network offers more than just you teaching your child. They have other class at the Leota campus in Woodinville. You also meet with a consulting teacher weekly. They are flexible. Not the solution for all but they work very well for us. More info here: schoolcenter.nsd.org/homeschool
    5. I am a child of Public school, my wife did k-6 in private and the rest public. If the money was there I would follow the k-6 in private and rest public.

    No matter what, parental participation is a must.

  4. Aimee
    January 24th, 2009 10:41

    Money is a huge factor for us so my children will be doing public school. The am vs pm kindergarten is determined by address so that the buses only go to one area. I imagine if you are willing to drive your child to school, you can petition for mornings if that isn’t your assignment. You have a tough choice ahead of you. Good luck!