Maddy's Mom wants to know if I have any thoughts on this. You betcha....
My husband and I are attempting to decide whether to send our daughter to a private school vs. public school. She has been in daycare since she was a baby and moved from a daycare setting to a private school Kindergarten this year. She did very well and really enjoyed being a big kid. She is in a class of 19 kids with a teacher and an assistant. She's a bright girl, but I worry a bit about her confidence. We had always planned to send her to the public school in our town, but I am having some doubts now. The school she is in has a great reputation, is very small and very caring. She would be in a 1st grade class with approx 12 children vs. approx 26 children in the public school. She's come a long way in reading, math and other things this year. My reason to keep her would be to get her the best foundation in the early years. But, I could also put some of the tuition money towards her college fund. The final factor in all of this is that we don't know how long we plan to stay in our house/town ... so I would hate to have her have to move schools yet again if we were to move next year. Do you have any thoughts on this subject?
From: Maddy's Mom, Billerica
Maddy's Mom, you have hit the nail on the head: There are two guarantees that come with a private school education: The first is the teacher-to-student ratio.
In private school, you know for sure that your child will be in small classes with no chance of being ingored no matter where he or she falls in the bell curve. But beware: There is no guarantee that every teacher will be terrific; just as in public school, some are bound to be duds.
Here's the second guarantee with private school: It will take more effort on your part to keep your child feeling part of the neighborhood & community in which you live. By and large, children make their friends from among their classmates so, depending on the year in which they enter private school, the neighborhood best buddies will disappear over time (older kids can be better about staying in touch). But here's a loss many parents don't consider: Your connection to the neighborhood/community will lesson, too, unless you make an effort. The rememdy is to remain part of community programs of any kind (sports, religious, etc), but as kids get older and have more comittments to their school, that gets harder.
This is one aspect of private school that parents often don't consider carefully enough and, in my opinion, it's no small thing. Yes, you are gaining a new community, but you may also be losing one. Go to a social event at the propsective school and look around at the parents and families. Your child is the most important piece of this equation but you also need to see if you -- the adults -- could be comfortable here. Are there families who look like yours? Families whose values reflect yours?
Full disclosure: my son, who is now in college, attended private school all the way through. We started with a private kindergarden as a transition year and, like you, our intent was for only that one year. But we loved the school -- small, warm, cozy, caring -- and we stayed. We have no regrets; in fact, we look back on his education as a gift we were able to give him. Does that mean he would have had less of an education in public school? I don't think so, at least not in our school system. Does it mean he had a better social experience in some way? I doubt that as well.
We made the decision based on who our child was and on his needs at the time, which is what I suggest you do. Is your child slow to warm up? Someone who might get lost in a large classroom because she wouldn't attract attention either as a stand-out student or as a challenging one? (By the way, children with special needs tend to be better off in the public realm unless you are choosing a school that caters to her particular deficit.)
Here's something else to consider: teacher satisfaction. A privately-funded study published last month says that teachers in private schools enjoy greater job satisfaction than teachers in public schools.
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