Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Great Private School Debate

I have this debate going on...with myself...in my head.  It's exhausting.  Nobody ever told me when I became a parent what a huge deal all of this education stuff was going to be.  Seriously, I have spent hours, days, probably months on researching different styles of education and when to send your child to school (my son has a September birthday which is several posts in and of itself) and whether to homeschool, send them to private school, or just stick with public school.  It's overwhelming.  There is so much information out there and so many choices to make.  The problem isn't pouring through all the information and merely picking the style that produces children with the highest test scores and best chance of getting into college though...it's what is the best thing for my child.  Sure, Montessori is great, and Waldorf, and Classical and the traditional public curriculum, but which style will my child flourish in?  Honestly, I don't care if she's the brightest, most well prepared for college, well rounded individual you've ever met.  It's how to educate her in a way that will bring out her strengths, help her deal with her weaknesses and teach her to think for herself and stay true to who she is that is important for me and of course, along with that I want her to be prepared for college and the real world.  I want her to have the best...but what exactly is best for her?

Let me just say that a lot of my indecisiveness stems from my own educational background.  I went to public elementary school and did great there.  I was even in the gifted classes, but I have to admit that I was very small for my age and somewhat shy and didn't have a ton of friends.  Then for junior high and high school I went to a small Christian school which I loved and that was where I flourished.   I honestly think had I gone to the monstrous public school where I lived I would've been eaten alive.  I would've floundered.  My confidence would've been shaken.  I wouldn't have been a cheerleader.  I wouldn't have made any of the school plays or musicals.  I certainly wouldn't have ridden the bench on the softball team just for fun to be with my friends.  I wouldn't even have made the team.  I wouldn't have graduated in the top 5 of my class.  I didn't even take AP classes in high school.  Not that I couldn't have handled it, but because I made the decision (along with my parents) not to over stress myself and try to do everything, but to enjoy high school and that's exactly what I did.  Guess what?  I still got into a great college, CLEPed a bunch of classes and I was very well prepared.  Now, was that because of my school, or because of just being me?  I'm not sure.  But I do know that going to the small school that I did helped shape who I am today.  And that's where my stress lies.  I want my kids to have the same great experience that I had with school.  I want them to love it.  And it's up to me and my husband to make this monumental decision that will shape them for the rest of their lives.  No pressure...  On a side note, my husband is from a small town and went to the public high school along with the rest of the town since private school is pretty much unheard of from where he's from.  I don't think he hated school, but he also didn't love it.  But we are on the same page in that we want to make the best educational decision for our children and since private school is an option where we live, then of course we are going to consider it.  Lucky for me he's pretty decisive and when presented with a list of pros and cons for a school he made a decision early on.  It's not that I don't respect his decision, it's just my own over analyzing mind that's getting me in trouble.  I want to be 100% sure that we're doing the right thing.  And I'm just not sure I'm ever going to feel that way.

How am I supposed to answer questions like these?  Would I rather my daughter excel at a "regular" type of school (like she does now) or will she still excel when she goes to a school where all the children are bright?  Won't she get lost in the pack of brilliance and will that make her falter?  Or would she do better at a school just like mine (I actually could send her to my alma mater) where it's Christian which eliminates the riff raff she is influenced by at public school but offers most of the same things as a public school in terms of the curriculum and extra curricular activities?  Or should I not make the financial sacrifice for the private school and let her shine her light in the public school and spend the money on extra curriculars like piano lessons and ballet and art classes?  Should we send her to the strict, classical school where she will definitely be challenged academically, but I wonder if she will she still have time after all of her homework to just be a little girl and play with her brother and her friends and relax?  And how do you fit in extra curriculars with all of that?  Should I just homeschool my children so I have complete control over everything, but then sacrifice that bond of having similar life experiences with my children (this seems to be a huge hang up for me when I consider homeschooling)?  And how on earth do we make a decision like this when she is so young and we don't even really know what she excels at yet (although I do admit she does excel at reading and creative writing and enjoys art immensely)?

So, fellow parents, help me out.  How did you come to terms with your decisions regarding your child's education?  Do you feel at peace that you're doing the right thing?  What helped you get to that point?  I would love some feedback from those of you who have been in my situation!

12 comments:

  1. Shawna, it's a challenging decision for sure. I have come down to believe Christian parents do their children the best service and assistance in their spiritual well being (no to mention intellectual, etc) either sending to a Christian school or home schooling.

    Children are not ready to "shine the light" in the public school. They are not missionaries. We are training them to be missionaries, but their training is not strong enough to put them in a hostile setting for 9000 seat hours (between K-6th grade alone) and expect them to come out spiritually strong, let alone think they'll really be lights. I've just never seen it work well. I have heard it said- if we give our kids to Caesar (public school) we should not be surprised to see them come out as Romans. It's true. Don't do it. But I don't have a strong opinion on this... :)

    Now, having said that, Christian schools have their issues too. Even Home School set ups aren't a guarantee of anything. Still, I see no comparison between the option of public vs Christian Education...and I think Psalm 1, Deuteronomy 6 and Ephesians 6 agree.

    May God bless your decision.

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  2. Wow, thank you for your insight and honesty. It's what I need to hear. I know in my heart that public school is not the best for her (I've heard myself issue your same sentiment about not being able to shine the light in public school, not in your words, obviously...) and I need to be reminded of that and it's good to hear from other parents who have a strong opinion. I just need to work on forming my own strong opinion and then backing it up when I need to! Thank you for your advice!

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  3. Hey Shawna, I had to read your post given I am in the same situation deciding the best educational option for each of my children. There are too many factors to list, but I wanted to encourage you that I do not believe that somehow your choice has the power to devastate your kids future happiness or well being. Honestly, there are positives and negatives with every option out there. Christian schools are not necessarily a "haven" from the secular world and its influences, homeschooling does not guarantee your child will go to college when she is 15, and not all public schools are full of drugs, sex, gangs, and guns. I think it is a problem when parents try to make decisions about their child's education based on or heavily influenced by their own past school experience. I know I was very set on not putting my kids in public school because I felt I did not get a very good education in the public system, however; I now see that my kids are not me! What they need and what they will experience are not predetermined by my past history! Does that make sense? I have kids heading into 7th, 6th, 2nd, and K/1st grades. I have "done it all" - private school, public school, and homeschooling. I can fairly and truly say that none of those options is perfect for any of them or me. I can only choose what seems best for each of them and our family at the moment, based on what I know today (not what I think will happen 10 years from now, or on what happened 20 years ago) and I re-evaluate and go thru this process EVERY YEAR. As important as our kids education is, I think we too often hyper focus on it and miss the big picture. Spiritually speaking, how or where my kids learn their math facts matters little compared to them seeing their mom and dad live a life devoted to loving and following Christ. I say "seeing" because just talking about it means nothing to our kids. It is how we actively live out our faith before them and with them that matters. Whether you homeschool, private school, or public school, nothing will hurt your child more than your hypocrisy and nothing will impact them greater than your life reflecting the grace and love of Christ. I have to say this is so much easier to write than to do! I am always learning, and the longer I am here the more I realize what little I know and how big I can screw up!! All I can say is Thanks be to God that His grace is sufficient, and my kids have heard me apologize many times. It's a process and let's face it, we are learning right along with our kids. I encourage you to relax, pray, and finally seek to just be fully dependent on God whatever you feel led to do. It's all we *really* CAN do afterall.

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  4. Angie, thanks for the reminder that I can change my mind! It's nice to hear that other parents face this challenge and aren't locked into one decision for their child's entire school career...I think I am focusing on a decision looking at it from that perspective and forgetting that it is okay to take it year by year or heaven forbid, change my mind! And I know my daughter is not me and that is admittedly part of my problem of wanting her to have the ideal experience that I had. Thanks for your advice and I will take it to heart. I appreciate it!

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  5. Hey Shawna- as the teacher I will give you some of my insight. What you choose has to be best for her and you foremost. I will give you some things to think about. Does her public school challenge her now? If not, is there an option where she could be considered gifted? Have you tried to work with her teacher about things extra she can either do at home or in the classroom? Will her new school challenge her and help her feel more successful or overwhelm her? What do you hope to gain from her going to this new school? Is it the Christian aspect, the academics, the extra curriculars, etc.? Have you asked her what she would like? Are there opportunites for her at this new school that she woudln't necessarily have? On the flip side, does this new school offer all the things that you would want her to be able to choose from? ?(art classes, writing opportunities) What support do they have in places for parents and students?
    I would encourage you to tour the school. Take her with you to see the school and see if she could see herself there. Talk to other parents about the school. Get their feelings on what they like and what they do not like.
    As far as homeschooling goes, the one huge drawback I see is the lack of socialization for kids. Not having friends or knowing how to be with other children. This is not always the case, and I'm sure neither of them would have a problem. :) Homeschooling can be a lot of work as a parent, but if you are committed I'm sure it can be very successful as well.
    The private/public debate has been going on forever. Whatever you choose will be right for you and for your situation. One other thing is are you ready to have 2 children in 2 different places. Just because this type of school is a fit for her it may not be a fit for your son.
    One other teacher note about your son and a September birthday. I've taught both k and 1st grade. In my opinion it never hurts to wait a year and let him be a little older in Kg, especially being a boy. A parent's job is never easy, but it's the most rewarding. Sara

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  6. Shawna,
    I know you and I have talked a lot about this... and being a public school teacher - my opinion is that when looking at a Christian school, you need to make sure your beliefs are STRONGLY aligned with the beliefs of the school. It is a lot easier to tell your child that the things she/he is learning from the public school is false than describing how a belief at a Christian school is half-false.

    Also, being a Christian and going to a public school all the way through (my parents gave me the option of going to the public school or switching to a Christian school). I did not turn out like a Roman, as your previous poster suggested. I honestly can't disagree with Reepicheep more.

    You as a parent are more influential that their teachers at either school. Just keep that in mind :)

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  7. You have it very right that one size does not fit all. It can also be what is right for your family at one point, may be different at another time. Also know that you will never know 100% what is best that is why we have faith. You are also correct that the decision for a child to start Kindergarten as a young 5 or 6 year old is not a question of academics, but rather a social concern.
    You have met my son soon to graduate from a public high school and go off to that "Orange" school. Our high school has FCA and a very strong Young Life group which I believe has made his faith stronger. His success is a product of parental prayer (and grandparents, and aunts, and church family) not that we made the best decisions.

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  8. Shawna,
    You face a dilemma that many of us have faced. As a teacher for now 31 years and a mother for 16 years I have lots of thoughts about schooling a child. I have taught in public school, private school, Christian school and now homeschool Andrew.
    When I was going to elementary school there were hardly any Christian schools. There were Catholic schools and they were known to be good educationally. I did not have a great education from the public school system since our school district was the one they used for all the new educational trends. We were their lab and many of us were lost in the lab. What ever I learned was from all the books I read and places that my parents took us. I liked to learn so I learned in spite of my schooling. Curtis on the other hand had an excellent education in the public school. So it depends on the place and the school and the child. I have taught in some excellent public schools. But I did not feel that all public education was bad because of my experience.

    There are many excellent points made in the comments above. You will have to weigh out the pros and cons and talk with Jim about them. In the end you will need to decide how Ava and Dean will be educated. You need to consider what is best for Ava and for Dean. Someone mentioned that what is good for one child is not always what is best for the other child. Many of my friends in homeschooling their children have done things differently for each child. Look at you brother and your sisters and how you are the same but different in your learning styles.
    You consider many factors: How do they learn, what turns their minds, their learning style, how independent they are... are they influenced by others or do they make their own way.... I would recommend visiting schools and seeing the way they do things. You have to carefully consider what is best for your family and your situation

    My Andrew is a very bright young man, but school( public or Christian) in any form would have been a rough experience for him. It would have killed him and his love for learning. He loves to learn but they way he learns would not be what goes on in a classroom situation. I have worked around that and made him so that he could function now in a classroom. Andrew is a follower and he learned very quickly from being in just Sunday School as a two year old, some very bad things. We were very glad we saw this and other things that made us decide homeschooling was the way to go with him.

    I want to say something here about being a teacher. I loved my career, my calling as a teacher. I still am friends with many of my former students who now are parents. Many of them have said next to their parents, their teachers made an impact on their lives in positive ways. God used many teachers in my school years in positive ways. But parents should always make the biggest mark and you are and will.

    I would differ on one thing that was mentioned about the socialization for children who are homeschooled.... There are more opportunities for social times and events then you can ever attend. As a parent you create and control their social times. We could be at something every day with other homeschoolers.

    Shawna, you know your children best. Whatever you decide you are going to pray about it and consider it carefully. You are wise to ask questions and think about what is said, but in the end you and Jim will come to a decision. Seek GOD first and He will guide you.

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  9. Ugh, I just typed a whole comment and it got erased somehow... I just wanted to say wow, thank you to everyone who took the time to thoughtfully respond to this post! I appreciate all of your comments and I am reading them and taking your advice to heart. I wanted to give you a quick bit of info that I should have included in the post...we made a decision regarding a private, Christian school a few months ago based on many factors and taking a huge leap of faith on it. This week it's suddenly become more real as we've been for a visit and testing for my daughter. I sort of starting just over analyzing all of it in my head and I just needed to vent regarding my frustration with the constant debate raging inside my head. So with that said...I have spoken with my husband (an expert at calming my irrational fears and constant worry) and am feeling much better (duh, I should go to him first next time!). However, I am still very interested in what others who have been in my situation have to say about dealing with all of this as I'm sure we will be required to defend our decision at many points during this journey. I appreciate all of your advice and empathy. It is so nice to know that I can lean on friends who have been there to help me in times of doubt and what ifs. It is also helpful to know that many of you have chosen differently than us but still have produced beautiful, educated, strong Christian children and that really is comforting to know that even if private school doesn't work out for us it isn't the end of the world. And besides, my son could end up being totally different than my daughter in learning style (he is pretty different in most things) and so we will most likely be revisiting this freakout of mine in another year as we face the same thing! So thank you to each of you for your comments!

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  10. Shawna, just typed a novel and it was to long, now I only have 1/2 of it. I will try and give you a shorter version if I remember. To me what is important has nothing to do with schools, that is just me. I am not the one to debate or ask on that. What I do feel like I can add is that sometimes what I think is important ends up being really insignificant down the road. Why did I get so caught up in "stuff" and drive myself crazy. Brandi wanted a private christian skl, couldn't afford it. Evan loves LWH, he says it is his mission field, not every kid can do that though. He is a light....and that is important to him. I want my kids to experience real LIFE....they are going to be dealing with it the rest of their lives. We try to use every opportunity as a learning experience and that has really worked for us. What is more important to me is that my kids are honest , have values and trust us. I know they value our opinions and that is an amazing feeling. My kids know what we expect and if they are doing their best then we can't ask for more. I would be just as happy if they became stay at home moms or doctors, really I want them to just be happy. How many people do you know that has a college degree and doesn't use it? I will encourage them in whatever they are pursuing no doubt but for me I know I am giving them the best if I am just being the best possible mom I can. I had so much more better stuff in the first one, I promise LOL but now after an hour and 1/2 I am out of material. I am going to try and submit this with 2 posts so we will see. I hope it makes sense and if you want to discuss it more we can always talk.

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  11. Here is the second 1/2...This is a crazy world we live in, but it is what we have and we have to make the best of it whether we like it or not. How we can make a difference is by teaching them what is really important in life and why we believe it. Every one of our kids are completely different....that is what makes it hard. I guess after 20 years of experienceI figured I knew it all and trust me that isn't the case. I have learned more from my kids than I ever could have learned, sometimes more than I like to admit but wouldn't trade it for the world. Brandi wanted to go to Cincinnati Christian more than anything and if I could have sent her there I would have. Now Michaela is struggling and begged us to sent here there or else she wanted to be homeschooled. We aren't able to send her and felt it wasn't fair to send her when Brandi wanted to go so bad. She has admitted to us now that she is happy where she is and her focus has changed. I don't want my kids sheltered and I certainly don't think going to a Christian School will shelter them, I don't think that is the case and that is what I told Michaela, "if you think you aren't going to hear the language you hear and that the kids that go to school there are different you are in for a rude awakening. I think it ends up hurting them in the long run if they don't realize that this world we live in sucks sometimes and as much as we would like it to be perfect and easy that it is just not real life. We use every opportunity to talk to our kids about what is going on in there lives and our kids tell us pretty much everything, somethings we don't want to know but as hard as that is ...sometimes it turns into a great conversation and they know exactly what we expect out of them and we know how they are feeling about that situation and when you know what they are thinking it is easier for me to address it. It is most important to us that our home is Christ centered and we love them no matter how successful they are, we focus on trust and values, family and above all love and how to love each other and everyone else in our lives. I am definitely not the person to ask about anything but what we have experienced as parents so far, I am no authority about schools or montossories (see....I can't even spell it) but just know that if you do your job at home everything else will fall into place. Does that mean you are going to have perfect kids....NO WAY! There are times my kids make me so proud I could burst and then the next minute they turn around and make me want to strangle them. They are a reflection of who we are and we could do everything right and they still can fail, and we could do nothing and they could end up being the most successful person we know.

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  12. At the end of the day I know that they love me, they really love me and that they trust me and that they value my opinion and the only thing I want is 10 years from now if you ask them what was important to them and what was there fondest memory growing up was, that they would say is that remember we had fun together, how we laughed at each over dinner, drove each other crazy at times jumping out of closets and spending hours upon hours trying to come up with pranks and get each other back and that the best thing growing up was just hanging out at home with each other on Sundays afternoons just sitting around talking about nothing and enjoying each others company. I know I have rambled on, I hope you are not offended by anything, I am not trying to say you are wrong for wanting certain things for your kids, you wouldn't be human if you didn't want what is best for them. Just after years and years of trying to get everything right and wanting my life just so, I have found that what I thought was important to me raising my kids really ended up being the least of my worries, that if we as a family have Christ the center of our home that we can't go wrong. There is no right or wrong way, just trust that God will lead you in the right direction, you just have to take it all to him and leave it there. I guess I am so passionate about this is because I wasted so much time on CRAP, silly stuff that wasn't worth it and when it came right down to it it really didn't matter. Don't be so hard on yourself and remember, when things get rough and you are questioning everything you do....don't try and do it by yourself.....ask for help and guidance from the one who kinda knows what he is doing...LOL You won't go wrong!

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