Momza asked a question in response to my last post about why people would choose to pay for private education. I started to reply to her in the comments, but it was getting long. Plus I thought if Momza asked it, chances are other people are thinking it. So I decided to just give it it's own post.
Our decision to send our kids to Catholic school is based on several things.
1. Tradition. My dh and I are both products of private education (me Catholic schools and him just private and expensive).
2. School size. The public elementary school my kids would go to is a good one. But it's also very large. Not sure of the current numbers, but I know when Annie was in the 3rd grade in a school with 3 classes of 20 kids each, the public school 3rd grade had 210 kids split among 7 classrooms. It just seems too big for a little person. The high school has over 4,100 students. Having attended small schools my whole life (there were 212 kids in my high school graduating class), that is just overwhelming to me.
3. Family atmosphere. I've explained it this way: I want my kids to attend a school where they know most everyone and most everyone knows them. If they are messing around in the hallway, I want any teacher or staff person to be able to call them out on it by name. Similarly, if they are doing something good, I'd like someone to be able to say "Thanks Charlie! That was great," even if it isn't a teacher Charlie has had. In addition, the people we see at church on Sunday are many of the same people we see in the pick-up line at the end of every school day. I like the consistency of that.
4. Faith experiences. I probably would have put this one first if I didn't worry about rubbing people the wrong way. (Some evangelist I would make, huh?). My children attend Mass on a weekly basis with the entire student body. Once a month, they go to Mass with their own classroom. The school prays together (via the announcements) in the morning and at the end of the day. There is prayer before lunch.
I think the value of sending the kids to a religiously-based school was really driven home to me several years ago when a student died of leukemia. The school prayed for her daily as she was fighting her battle. And when she died, the school was able to respond by gathering the entire student body together for prayer. As a parent struggling to understand the unfairness of a child's death, I was comforted by the opportunity to gather with the students, faculty and staff to grieve and support one another. This is an extreme example and possibly less important than the daily and weekly faith opportunities. But it's something for which I'm grateful.
All of that is not to say that sending my kids to private school absolves us of our responsibilities as parents. Although my kids go to Mass and have daily religion class, the formation of their faith and their moral character is still up to us. I also don't want to give the impression that I consider private education categorically superior. We have several friends whose children attend public schools who are smart, well-behaved, great kids.
There can be certain disadvantages to private education. No buses to transport kids to and from school. Smaller class sizes can sometimes mean that if a kid is labeled one way (nerdy or a trouble maker), it's hard to break away from that. Some private schools may not offer the racial and economic diversity that is a reality in today's world -- though my children's school does. Public schools may offer a wider range of special needs services and extracurricular activities. Those are all things to consider.
And we are not opposed to considering public education. We've talked about several times since Annie started kindergarten, most seriously this spring. But at this point, Annie only has one year left before high school and I wouldn't move her now. Sending her to the big, public high school from a school where there are only 60 kids in her class seems like not a good idea. But she has asked if she could look at a smaller, public charter school and we will.
Charlie would love to go to public school -- because they don't wear uniforms and he's convinced they don't have as much homework. We're going to see how this year goes and consider sending him to the public middle school. Though quite honestly, I plan to send him to Catholic high school because I want him to be able to play competitive sports and the public school is so large that only the most elite players make the teams.
Finally, our Catholic school has been so supportive of Robbie and his various issues. We've worked closely with them for the past two years to make sure he's getting best education and the best support. I can't imagine starting that all over with a new school.
So Momza, that's why we choose to pay for private education. And I hope my Currency Crunch post didn't make it sound like I was whining about the expense. Because we are members of the parish, our tuition is about $3,000/child. I think it's an investment worth sacrificing for.