Saturday, April 01, 2006

School Smackdown

So the debate over here is public or private school for Mr. Personality. As extra money is a little hard to come by over here, it is quite a fractious issue.

I confess that I might be a bit of a school snob, having been sent to private school for my entire 1-12 career. I did attend a public kindergarten, which I don't really remember. My only concrete memory is that I jumped rope by myself to 100, and the teacher didn't really seem to care when I told her. I think my feelings were hurt.

Perhaps that event has colored my view of public schools. I tend to have this vision of the school board snapping their collective fingers and changing the curriculum on the slightest of whims. Of bullies roaming free in the hallways, shaking people down for vending machine money. Of cafeteria ladies with hair nets and stained aprons glopping mystery food onto student's plates. As well as huge classes where the students are faceless entities.

I should know better since my sister is a public school teacher, and a fine one at that. She tells me that public schools are better than private. But then bitches about all the testing and how she is powerless to fail students that deserve to flunk, so it is a bit of a mixed message to say the least.

Of course, Hubba-hubba is on the side of a public school. He tells me that is part of why we like this area, since the public schools are excellent. He feels that a smart kid will succeed no matter what, that it mostly depends on parent involvement. And, he was quick to point out the other night that a finance book he read said that you were better off investing the money you would have spent on private schools, using the proceeds for a college fund.

To me, private schools mean more control over what is being taught. More participation in a smaller, more creative learning environment. When I attended my all girl's high school, everybody knew everybody, and I kind of like that idea. And forget about that crap known as the No Child Left Behind Act. I almost don't want to send Mr. Personality to public school just to defy this Administration and its supposed goals for taxpayer supported education.

I am torn. I would like to think that Mr. Personality, being the bright child that he is, would bloom where ever he was planted. But then the other side of me thinks, don't I care as much about my child as my parents did for me? What better way to say you value education than to pay money out of your pocket for it?

Thank goodness I have over a year to decide.

Otherwise, I just might find myself cracking the books out right here on the kitchen table and becoming Professor Gina.


Granny said...

Elcie and Rochelle, both special day students, have thrived for the most part in the public school system. Small classes, individual attention, and learning at their proficiency level, not the state's.

Rebecca is another story and if I could afford private school, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Some of it is Rebecca, of course, but much of it is a system that's forced into cramming for tests and that evil NCLB.

I don't know. We're in a lower income, largely Hispanic city and the schools are trying hard under poor conditions. Yours is probably much different. As you said, you've got time to check out both options.

Bobita said...

I AM HAVING TO MAKE THIS VERY DECISION!! (Sorry for yelling!) My Irreverent Husband is a public school teacher...and ALL for it...but I was raised in private/parochial schools! I don't know what to do! My son is such a tenderheart...that I am somewhat fearful of sending him off to our district public school, known for the little gang-bangers running about!

I have to make the decision now...I have no idea what to do!

Good luck to you! I'm so happy you more time to make the decision!

Elizabeth said...

I think if the public schools in your area are good, send him to public school. If things get problematic you can alwys opt for private school.

chichimama said...

M and I are both private school devotes, and were just having this conversation over dinner last night. We live in the 2nd or 3rd best school distric in the state, so it seems really silly not to send our kids to public, but then again, there are 4,000 students at the high school. I don't care how good the system is, that is too many kids on one school, coming from someone whose graduating class was 89.

I think we landed at trying public school for a few years at the elementary level where the schools are smaller, and the stakes are lower. With the understanding that we reserve the right to yank in a heartbeat if things go wrong.

I even briefly debated homeschoolong, and then poured some cold water over my head to bring me to my senses.

Good luck!!!

Mega Mom said...

I'm with Elizabeth. I'm a product of a public school system that was so good that people considered it private :) Now we're in a very good system, but it has a HUGE high school...which scares me. Oh well...we'll probably be back to NY and my old school system well before that time...

Let us know what you choose!

Suzanne said...

Tough decision! I went to a Catholic grade school and high school and thought that my education was vastly inferior to that received by a lot of my friends in college (the first point at which I could compare!). However, the public school in my township was not very good or safe, either, so it was the lesser of two evils.

Jeff and I live in a town whose school district is among best in our region, so we will be sending them to the public school. I can't imagine paying our exorbitant property taxes AND tuition!

Good luck making your decision.

Liz said...

Growing up, we moved a lot. If the schools in the area were good, we went to public schools. If they weren't, my parents put us in private schools.

Our kids started out in private schools, the oldest K-8, the younger K-5. We put them in public school when we moved from the city to the county and the timing was perfect for the older to start high school and the younger, middle school. The transition was pretty smooth, since all the kids at that level were basically starting at a new school as well. It's worked out for us.

I disagree with chichimama on one point. I think the stakes are higher when the kids are younger, not older. If a kid doesn't have a good start in school, public or private, it makes it a lot harder when they get older. Those first few years set the tone for their future education, in my opinion.

Awesome Mom said...

I am agonizing over this and I have a lot more years than you do. Homeschooling is winning out for us. Because my husband is in the military we will be moving around a lot and will not have as much control about where we will be living. Private school will most likely be out of our price range. The best option for a consistent education is homeschooling. That will of course mean a huge sacrifice for me. Who knows how I will feel when the time comes? Not me that is for sure.

J said...

You could spend a bit of time visiting both options...looking at the curriculum, and seeing if the public schools in the area really are as good as the private. We have our daughter in a public school, and we are lucky that our district has a charter montessori school that we can attend for free. (As free as any school is these days...we live in CA, which miserably underfunds the schools, so we literally depend on fundraisers to pay the teachers). So my advice is to go out and spend a bit of time researching the options. The nice thing is that you can change your mind, either way, if you need to. Good luck. It's a toughie.

Anvilcloud said...

IMHO, and it is humble, public schools are a cornerstone of democracy and equality. When good parents take good kids out of the system, it weakens it. I'm sure that it is necessary for some, and I have no quarrel with them. In your case, since the public schools are, apparently, good, you would probably not hurt the kid in any way by starting him out there. But who really knows for sure? It's all probably and maybe from this distance.

Hope said...

We are lucky and unique
K-6 94 students.
Rural School.
Love it.
I agree with dad I think....
And parent involvement is HUGE all the way through.
Do you know that studies indicate that boys are not typically ready for a structured classroom until about 8 (results may vary), so a tolerant fun loving and patient teacher is essential.

Granny said...

Just read over what I said and I may have inadvertently come across as racist which is not what I meant. To anyone I may have offended, I apologize.

Any child who has to learn a second language has it harder than the kids for whom English was their first. We do have a large Hispanic population, also several Asian groups and the school is trying hard to cope with ESL while teaching in overcrowded classrooms with insufficient funding.

We haven't yet been reduced to fundraisers for teachers' salaries but we certainly have them for anything out of the ordinary (like the occasional field trip or party).

J said...

We don't have fundraisers that are specifically for salaries...what we have is fundraisers that go into the general budget, not field trips or parties. The general budget goes for things like salaries, etc. Part of this is because we are at a charter school, which receives less money than every other school in the district. Part of it is because our schools are generally underfunded.

Granny, I didn't think your comment was is a fact of life that when teachers have to spend a lot of class time dealing with language barriers, the amount of other learning that occurs is reduced.

Gina said...

Granny, I agree with J. I don't think your comment was racist at all.

She said it best, so I am just going to nod my head.

wordgirl said...

Former public schoolteacher here. I'm not a big fan of homeschooling, given that the state I live in thinks it's okay for a person with a 4th grade education to call their home a PRIVATE SCHOOL and then proceed to teach...or not...the kid.

Investigate the public schools in your area and determine which one is best. If you can't move into that zone, transfer into it.

For me...private school is a last resort...only slightly ahead of homeschooling.

WordsRock said...

I so agree with Liz's point about the first years of school setting the tone.

That's one reason The Boy attended private school K-7. Plus we wanted to go the Montessori route because we thought he would do well in such an environment. For him, it was the right decision and well worth the financial strain.

I also think parental involvement is vital no matter what type of school your child attends.


Granny said...

Thanks Gina and J. That's exactly what I meant but with all the bashing going on lately, I wanted to make sure no one thought that was what I was doing.

Sue said...

For what it's worth, home education (as we call it in the UK) is the BEST thing we ever did. If I had more children, I wouldn't hesitate. There's nothing school can give them that's better than the freedom to learn, at their own pace, in their own way, according to their own interests, in the safety of their own home. Home educated children are more sociable than those in any school, generally more advanced academically (without it mattering), they're not subject to peer pressure or bullying, they're confident and secure, they continue to get along well with their parents right through the teen years...

I know for some people it isn't an option, and then you have to go with what's best for your child as an individual. What are the strengths and weaknesses for each available school? My sons did start off at a small CofE school in the UK (and no, that's not a private school - most primary schools there have a church link) that had only 225 children and an excellent reputation for music. Mostly they were happy there as it suited their personalities - but after a couple of years of home education they'd never return to school. Eight years on from our start in home education, they're mature young men with quite different interests and goals, who are very, very thankful that they didn't have to suffer the horrors of high school.

Piece of Work said...

I'm definitely on the public school side of this debate, and I agree with anvil cloud that pulling kids out of public schools hurts them. I went to private school grades 6 thru 12 and I didn't see any difference in those years and my public school eductation. When I started private school, I was not behind--in fact I was ahead of many of the kids there. Of course every school (public and private) is different, so you have to do your research. WE are planning to send the kids to public school because we can't and don't want to afford the private ones. I plan to volunteer at the local elementary starting next fall and hopefully my being involved will be enough. There are many spanish speaking kids at our local school, too.