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hduke
hduke asks:
Q:

Public vs. Private?

My 5-year-old son is about to enter Kindergarten, and my wife and I are considering the option of sending him to private school. We make a decent combined household income, but we're not wealthy and sending him to private school will put us in debt for years to come.
Was wondering how many people on this board have sent their children to private school and struggle financially but still feel like it was worth it.
Nothing is more important than my son's education, but I don't want to teeter on the edge of bankruptcy for the next 13 years either.
In Topics: Choosing a school
> 60 days ago

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Expert

Developmentalist
Jul 19, 2007

What the Expert Says:

Henry - I've got both a personal and professional opinion.Personally, I'm a big believer in trying out the local neighborhood school where young children are in walking distance to their friends and in their local community.  I've decided to do this for my son who is entering Kindergarten.  As I get to know the school and my son better, I might turn toward private education. You can always consider private education at the Middle or High School stage when your child's abilities and interests have evolved and thinking about college becomes more important.  And, you can re-evaluate your financial situation at that time. Professionally, data and expert opinion point to parental involvement as the key ingredient in life long success, love of learning, and child well-being.  So, whether you opt for private or public education, your concern and involvement will always be there.

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Additional Answers (22)

vdancer
vdancer writes:
Henry, I have some experience with this issue.<br/><br/>Basically, our experience (with three children going through various combinations of public and private elementary, high school and college) is that it's worth it. <br/><br/>We did have the unexpected advantage that our children were spaced years apart, which has helped quite a bit with spreading the expense over many years. &nbsp;When our eldest daughter was a preteen, and beginning to get into trouble (cutting school, etc.) we enrolled her in a local parochial school. &nbsp;She threatened to run away, citing the school uniform as a special grievance, but we persisted, feeling that if she continued as she was headed, she might not even finish high school, much less college, and that it'd be money well spent. &nbsp;She loved it from day one, and was elected a class officer the first week (and subsequently had a complete and happy education.) &nbsp;When our son was ready for school, the local public schools were in particularly poor shape, and we found a private school system (Waldorf) that we liked right away. &nbsp;Although he was a poor student in the early years, he matured well and entered university on an honors track. &nbsp;Our youngest, after 14 years at our local Waldorf school and high school, just completed a hugely expensive private college career which we will be paying for for quite a while, delaying our retirement to do so. &nbsp;Although some might say its a huge sacrifice, we've felt that the rich education they've received is our great gift to them, and that it's been well worth it. &nbsp;All three are happy, well-adjusted and contributing adults, and we know that they've valued their educations as well. <br/>Good luck!<br />
> 60 days ago

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loishi
loishi writes:
That is a tough question. &nbsp;<br/><br/>I went to public schools and unfortunately, I did see that the children in nearby private schools were getting a better education -- more resources, better teachers, more attention, etc. &amp;nbsp;However, it really does depend on where you live -- some states/districts boast public schools that exceed private schools in the area in academic excellence. <br/><br/>It's definitely worth it to do research in your area to see the academic records of your public versus private schools -- school counselors can help, as could your state's department of education. In fact, my brother recently bought a house partly because it was in such a great public school district!<br />
<br />
In the end, I do think that well-prepared students have a greater edge in college admissions. &amp;nbsp;And even though college is expensive, going to a great high school may make all the difference in terms of winning scholarships and other financial aid.<br />
> 60 days ago

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hduke
hduke writes:
Thanks to everyone for sharing their experiences. I am leaning towards trying out the local public school as Denise suggests for at least the first couple of years to see if it's a good fit, and it will also buy time for us to save up a little more money to prepare for the financial hit.<br />
I know that a lot of other important factors like parental involvement can make a bigger difference than the public/private issue, and I hope to follow the good example that my parents and extended family set for me when I was a young child.<br />
I'm glad to hear that Valerie was able to make adjustments even in the teenage years to keep her kids on track.<br />
It should be an interesting 13 years ahead.<br />
> 60 days ago

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lisa.brown
lisa.brown writes:
I agree that it depends on where you live. I went to private school as a child but now my daughter is in public school and it's a great school. The local private/parochial schools are seeing a decline in enrollments because they do not seem to have the same level of resources and experienced teachers as the local public schools. You just have to investigate your school of choice ahead of time and if possible talk to other parents who have kids there.<br />
> 60 days ago

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BrianC
BrianC writes:
Henry
I can feel your pain. I live in a large city, where the public school resources are stretched very thin, I had my oldest son in a private high school, and after 2 years the transfered back to our local public school, where his brother was attending.
Public neighborhood schools at elementary and middle level were decent with parental involvement high, but once you get to the high school level, everything changes dramatically.
The difference in the quality of education is so dramatic it can make you wonder what else can possibly go wrong. We have to constantly moniter the teachers. My son switched because he wanted to participate in sports and the private school had a nationally ranked program in his sport.

As a parent it's a hard choice, but I am sure you will make the right decision for your son. So far, we are fine with our decision, but the jury is still out.
brian
> 60 days ago

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cherykab
cherykab writes:
depending where you live. The primary years are too important to be lost. If the public school in your area is not good, send your child to private school. Here what I did, I sent the children to  an excellent private primary school. Then  they went for one year (9th grade to a Prep School (Public). In High School, they were enrolled only in Honor classes. They finished with 18 College credits and that was a big plus for me as well as the children. The Primary school years in the Public System can be easily wasted because the instructors have to deal mostly with ill behavior.
> 60 days ago

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Adri
Adri writes:
My husband and I always wanted to have our kids enrolled in a catholic school.  It is more expensive? yes . but is worth it. Anyway, in my opinion.. going to a private school doesn't make a difference if the family is not involve.  Children need attencion whether going to a private or a public school. Personaly, I see a big difference in the way my kid behave cpmpared to his friends in public school.
it doesn't have to be so expensive. you can go to a parish school ( in case you are catholic) and  enjoy the feeling your child going to a private school without getting broken.
I vote private.
> 60 days ago

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greenprof2
greenprof2 writes:
Interesting discussion! My wife and I are both in service professions and anything but wealthy, but we decided early on that it was more important to invest in our children's early education, their foundation if you will, and let the chips fall as they may for college. We live in Virginia where high-stakes tests have hi-jacked our public schools and reduced learning to the LCD. Our kids have attended Community School (www.communityschool.net) and it has been a wonderful experience for all three. At the end of grade 8 our daughter decided to attend the local public high, and she will be graduating in 2 weeks ranked in the top 5% of her class, despite her dyslexia -- because she learned what was important about how to learn and how to regulate her time and study. She received a $56K merit scholarship for 4 years for college. Our oldest son just won the National Geographic Society photo-essay contest, and gets to go to Australia for a 2-week trip. Both boys have learned how to think and write and set their own learning goals. I hope your public school is not test-crazed and your child will not learn that a test score is the goal of schooling. We have never regretted our choice.  Michael Bentley, EdD
> 60 days ago

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Marge
Marge writes:
I have 3 sons and we sent them to a catholic grade school.
After a while it seemed liked I was being nickled and dimed to death.....
I pulled my kindergardener and 4th. grader out and sent them to a public school and let the oldest son graduate with his friends....
Today I'm sorry that I did not keep them there......
To this day you can see the difference in all the boys.....as far as kindness, respect and there overall way they look at life....They all turned out well but by far private school is better......You'll never be sorry......GOOD LUCK
> 60 days ago

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mattnyc
mattnyc writes:
My son is 4 and has been in parochial school since the age of 2.  Although I have heard that public schools do offer a slightly better education I'm all for private.  You do notice the difference in a child that has gone to parochial school versus private.  The way they look at life and the pride they show towards their school is a lot more than what you can appreciate from a public school.  I myself was not fortunate enough to be able to go to a private school but now that I've seen it up close I wish I had...I might have turned out better.  In public school I felt like a wall flower and only in middle school did I have teachers who actually did something for me or my education and that was probably only because it was some sort of advanced school.    I hope I can continue to offer this opportunity to my son.  Also for the post about more than one child they do offer discounts for multiple children...something to think about.  They also offer scholarships to those who qualify at parochial schools...you get a certain percentage based on your income.  Hope  I've helped...
> 60 days ago

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vdancer
vdancer writes:
We're in San Francisco.  All Waldorf schools do have tuition-assistance programs to help make the education more affordable.  Check into it.  On the home front, you can adapt "Waldorf" methods into your home life.  No TV or computers is a good place to start to make a huge difference in your child's learning and play.  It certainly is "counter-culture" these days, but very effective in raising harmonious, alert, centered children, and it can be done, with strong loving parenting.  Good luck!
> 60 days ago

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sandyj8
sandyj8 writes:
I just came across this site tonight and found it very interesting and really appreciated everyone's input.  I'm in the midst of starting the "school search."  I reside in California but originally from East Coast.  Our public school system is considered "good" by state standards, but after middle school (when children are about to enter High School), the problem arises....there is a rush and sense or urgency to get your child into a private school.  Advice I have received from parents who have children in public and private school out here is if you can afford it, put your child in private school as early as possible (preschool/kindergarten).  Not only because the private schools are so much better, but it's much easier to get in when the child is of kindergarten age.  Once a child hits high school age and tries to get into a private school, there may be only a handful of openings (if that) and many, many trying to get in.  I did some "investigating" on my own and found that our local public school spends a little over $4000/yr. per student in 2007.  Where I'm from back East (and this is dating back to 1999/2000 when I still lived there), our public school spent over $7000/yr. per student.  I agree with the others that schools, both public and private, vary greatly especially when comparing state to state.  Right now I'm a stay at home Mom.  My husband makes a good salary, but even with that the cost of a private school is this area is a great concern.  I'm hearing $12,000 and up per year starting at Kindergarten!  Yikes!  I will returning to the work force to help pay for our daughters education.  But the experience and education she will receive in a private institution is priceless!
> 60 days ago

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irish
irish writes:
I teach in an all girl, private Catholic school.  It is an independent school and does not have to follow the archdiocese set curriculm.
My daughter went to a Catholic archdiocese school and I just pulled her out to finish elementary school in the public school setting.  Why? Her school is not equipped to deal with different learning styles or students that are advanced or behind.  Was the atmosphere and community nice?  Yes, but there were still a lot of students that were discipline problems sent there by parents who felt Catholic school would "make them tow the line".  Which in some cases it worked, but in others it did not.  Were there "mean girls"?  Yes, and in every school setting it is inevitable.  My bottom line was that I intend to be part of my child's education and I want to make sure that she can have a chance to achieve with the learning style and at the learning level that best suits her abilities.  Catholic archdiocese schools don't have the money or amount of teachers necessary to make that happen.  However if you have an average student or a sensitive/fragile child that fits into their system, it may be exactly what you are looking for.
Is my independent school the same as my daughters?  No!  However the tuition is extremely high.  It has 5 levels for each subject and turns out very bright young ladies that have the ability to problem solve and deal with all that life might hand them.  I do intend to send my daughter to my school for middle school because public middle school in the United States is constantly a mess and being refined and looked out without success.  Also, I feel single sex middle school lets the students develop a sense of self-confidence for appropriate successes (sports, the arts, good grades).
Another thought to ponder is that public school students are eligible for a wider amount of college schloarships based on achievement than private school.  Good luck -- it is a tough decision and there is no easy answer!
> 60 days ago

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Bert
Bert writes:
Mmm. It seems you're having the paasion to give to your child the best education. And I commend you for that. All I can say about your question is it's good to choose when there are options. I have graduated from a private school when I'm in elementary and I found it very challenging academically for me and financially for my parents. But I tell you what I've learned there is incomparable! Truly Fantastic!!! I am not saying here that public school is bad and isn't effective...
> 60 days ago

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sushinorii
sushinorii writes:
As a senior in high school, I have experienced both public and private schools. From K-8 I was in public school, and then for high school my parents and I decided on private school that is somewhat alternative. I love and have loved all three of my schools, and my parents feel the same way. Hearing your situation, I think that at least for elementary school, public would be a good option. I know that my being in private high school has put a strain on my parents, and now as I consider colleges my family is going to have to take into account how much things cost.

The main thing though is what is best for your son. If you think that he needs the extra attention that he would get w/ smaller class sizes at private school, or if the public schools near you are really bad, then go for the private school. But again, as a student who has experienced both, it's really what works best for your family, so I think you should consider both, and try applying for financial aid, you never know, that could make all the difference.
> 60 days ago

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marleneL
marleneL writes:
Although it's been two months after your post.  I would like to reply to your very important question.  I am an immigrant whose mother worked in a nuts and bolts factory to send me to private grade and high school. I have done the same for my son who is now 15. I will give you no advice but will share with you my experience.  My son attended the best private schools in the Midwest and East coast.  However, he was not at all interested and frankly became so anxious that he would not want to go to school.  We put him into public school in 8th grade and is currently in a public high school.  Grades are not important to him so both private and public school have not had much of an impact on him.  The moral of my story is to do what you believe is best for your child, take hints from him on how hes like and how well he performs  at school.  As a parent you are there to provide the tools but your child needs to want to use does tools.  Follow the hints that your child leaves for you on this front but the results are up to your child.  The older they get, the more important for them to own the results.   Good luck.
> 60 days ago

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kguzman
kguzman writes:
I am a second year college student taking up Elementary Education. In my opinion, if you can not afford to send your son to a private school, at least look for a public school that gives quality education to their students. It doesn't mean that spending so much money to send your child to a private school gives you an assurance that your child will learn much compared when you send him to a public school.

It is true that sending a child to a private school doesn't make any difference if the parents will not assist and be involved in their child's learning process.

The decision is still up to you and your wife. Choose what you think is best for your family and especially, your son. Good luck!


Guzman, Kara
Bachelor of Elementary Education Major in Special Education
University of Santo Tomas
> 60 days ago

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DuMb GiRl LOL!
DuMb GiRl LOL! writes:
Public School!!! Way better.
> 60 days ago

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LDSolutions
LDSolutions , Child Professional writes:
Because every child is different and has different needs - you will need to find the right fit for your child.  If your daughter gets overwhelmed or lost in the shuffle, then you are going to need to find a smaller less chaotic school.  If your child struggles academically - then a highly academic school isn't the right place for her.  If your child thrives on structure - then a structured environment is where she will fit in.  These are all things you need to take into consideration when finding the right place for your child.  My son had learning differences and needed a very small class size with a nurturing warm environment.  I sent him to a tiny nurturing private school.  My daughter on the other hand is extremely social and loves lots of kids and thrives in public school.  My advice to you is to go visit a lot of schools.  Sit in the classrooms and picture your child in that classroom.  Would they be able to keep up.  Are these kids going to be your child's friends?  Are the class sizes adequate for your child's needs?  Do this with private and also public schools.  The right place will present itself.
> 60 days ago

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Loddie1
Loddie1 , Parent writes:
Hello! Very interesting question. The first thing I would do is RESEARCH! Yes, research the whole No Child Left Behind, the way public schools test, what extra activities do they offer? In other words, is Art class available, Music? Do the students have P.E. or recess? All these questions I would ask the schools. I would also look into the website Greatschools.net for other comments. We personally have tried both and the public school was not the kind of environment we felt our child could thrive in. However, her first year private school was great and second year was awful! So now we homeschool and love it! Just try to weigh all your options. Good Luck~
> 60 days ago

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