Thursday, March 13, 2008

Oh, the dilemmas of life...

Owen woke me up the other morning at 6:30. He, of course, went right back to sleep but my brain got cranking and I started obsessing about Sydney's schooling. She's at the age where she can start kindergarten in the fall. We've got her in a private Montessori school right now that we love, but it's a good 20-30 minute drive from our house. She could attend through 8th grade, and that's what we were fully planning on having her do. For some reason, though, I started thinking the other morning and what started out as a pebble has slowly grown into a boulder and we're now agonizing over whether or not we send her to public school or keep her in her comfortable-but-distant private school.

Both situations have pros and cons. The pros of the private school are that it's very familiar to her by now and it's very safe. The kids who go there are great and the parents are generally like-minded. The school has an environmental philosophy along with Montessori-like instruction all through the elementary and middle-school years with classes becoming more "school-like" as the students get older. Last year we had the opportunity to tour the classrooms through each level and see what students experience at each age. It was great, but was it great enough to justify all of the expense (because tuition isn't outrageous, but it's certainly not free) and all the driving?

As Sydney's getting older and starting to make friends, I really see the benefits of having her attend the neighborhood school. There are real benefits to having her friends be in our neighborhood rather than scattered all around the area. It would be great to be able to drop her off in 10 minutes round-trip rather than taking an hour twice a day to drive across town. Once she gets involved in extra-curricular activities, it would be really nice to have them down the street rather than 8 miles away. Not to mention, once Owen starts school, we'd have twice the tuition and possibly twice the driving depending on how much his schedule meshed with hers.

The main disadvantage of taking her out of private school (besides the friends she'll miss) is the miserable state of public schools in Portland. However, our neighborhood school is among the better in the city (we chose our house specifically for the schools) so it almost seems silly not to take advantage of it. I also like the idea that Sydney will be exposed to more diversity (although the neighborhood school is still pretty homogenous compared to other schools in the city) in public school than she would at private school.

We might end up going with the neighborhood school for environmental reasons if nothing else. The drive across town twice a day does bug me, even if we do fuel the car with biodiesel made from recycled oil. Sigh. I just don't know. Anyone have any useful insights for me?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Try public school for kindergarten and see what you think. There are so many benefits to being in school with neighborhood kids, not just for her but for the rest of your family too - it's 'community building' I think. My son is in public school kindergarten and we have three kids on our block who are in his same classroom and two more within walking distance! I volunteer 1x per week in the classroom and highly recommend that too - you can get a real feel for what the teacher is "really" like, what the other kids are like and just the general vibe. We have to pay to have him in full-day kindergarten, but it's prob. less than private montessori.
Hope that helps! --Kelsey

p.s. - another benefit of public school is THE SCHOOL BUS. He loooves to ride the bus and line up w/the big kids, etc.

9:49 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

We had the girl in montessori school for preschool and it was great (and we're still paying on the loans we took out to do it - she'll be 10 next week). But I'm a huge believer in public schools (not just because I'm a public school teacher), but I really think that the only way for them to get "better" is to have more parents who can and will be involved keep their kids in public school. And any type of school is what you make it, and what you "add" to their education. As long as there are not huge discipline issues at the school (my husband's principal sends kids who start fires in the bathroom back to class with no consequences!), I think it would be fine. And yes, there is a lot to be said for the neighborhood school and having your friends live down the street instead of all over town. When we were trying to decide what to do we visited some schools and the school she ended up at (our neighborhood school) had the best "vibe" and that really sealed the deal for us.
Good luck! I know you'll make the right decision for your family.

4:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

opted to try public while the cowboy is young and more flexible. You will know within the first few months if it is the right choice.
Baltimore has miserable schools... but we have a public charter as our zone school and it is fantastic. He loves knowing his school community and I love that his school community is represented in a way that truly reflects the diversity of our neighborhood.

5:37 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

I went through the same thing with my daughter this past year. She attended private school (also about 20 minutes away in good traffic) for Pre-K to 1st grade. Though it was a good school, I began to wonder if it was worth the expense and hassle (plus she didn't know ANY neighborhood kids). We put her in public school this year for 2nd grade and she is loving it! She gets to ride the bus (the school isn't far, but just far enough) and made a lot of friends who live close by. Also, we feel more part of the community now than before (not to mention all the gas I've saved!)

5:40 AM  
Blogger Knifty Knitter said...

I think there are advantages to going the public school route, even if the school isn't one of the best in the country. As long as they are meeting the states standards for education there shouldn't be any reason why it's not good enought to send your children to. They would be exposed to diversity they wouldn't get in a private school. My cousin goes to private school that is 30-45 minutes away from where she lives. However, she lives in a very affluent neighborhood where 3-4 of her school friends also live. I think that, as some others have commented, you should try public school while she is young and still flexible.

6:21 AM  
Anonymous Judy said...

Only you can decide what's right for your children and your family.

For a variety of reasons, I chose to send my son to public school. For a variety of reasons, my brother and SIL chose to send their daughter to private school. I think my brother always looked down on me a bit for my choice. But, while my niece at 10 is a lovely girl, my son at 19 is a pretty darn good kid, too, with the passion to work hard and follow his dream.

If there's one thing being a parent has taught me, it's that kids, fortunately, are resilient. Bright kids will do well as long as their home environment is supportive. That's way more important, in my opinion, than what school they go to.

7:00 AM  
Blogger Yarnhog said...

My two cents: If you live in a neighborhood with a lot of kids, not going to the local school really puts your child outside the neighborhood social circle. I see it in my own neighborhood. I also think it is important to have children deal with people of all different backgrounds from an early age; after all, that's what they'll have to deal with all their lives. I have friends who send their kids to private school where the kids look and act like little clones. I can't see how this is preparing them for life in an increasingly diverse world. But the best piece of advice I can give you is go with you heart, and rest assured that this decision will not ruin your child's life. If you don't like your initial choice, you can change. Good luck!

7:36 AM  
Blogger Brittney said...

As the daughter of 2 public school teachers, I'm a firm believer in the public schools. Though, as you know, we have the boy in a private preschool for kids with autism, because that is where he is happiest and his needs are being best met. It's worth the 20 minute drive each way for us. However, I also believe that you need to visit your neighborhood public school and try it out before deciding. IMHO, No Child Left Behind is a load of crap, and you need to take school ratings with a grain of salt. A public school is as good as its teachers and staff, and if your child excels there, it is the right place for him or her. I think you should pick the school where your child is happiest and does best, be it private or public, and I think the amount driving for happiness and a good education in this case (at least for me) trumps the environmental impact.

8:13 AM  

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