Think you can't afford private school? Have you checked?
|Yes, you can!
by Marilyn Mackenzie
It bugs me when I hear people complaining about public school and wishing they could send their kids to private school. They say they canâ€™t afford to send their kids to private school. Of course they can! I did. My son attended private schools from kindergarten through 3rd grade.
I didnâ€™t start out thinking Iâ€™d send my child to a private school. I wasnâ€™t one of those parents who arranged for private school entrance for my kid even before he was born or before he could walk. I thought heâ€™d attend public school like I did.
I was almost 32 when my son was born, and his dad was almost 56. We knew our son would be an only child and we made sure he had the preschool experience so he could learn to socialize. Thankfully, when he was 4, his preschool arranged for a visit to the local kindergarten and I tagged along. What I learned about our public school system was what made me discover how affordable private schools really can be!
We knew our son was smart. When I knew I was expecting, I read about the stages of infants, toddlers and beyond. When my son rolled over at 3 days old, and when I realized it wasnâ€™t some accident that occurred but something he continued being able to do, I knew my son was different.
He was a big baby, thriving only on breast milk, and everyone said heâ€™d be a late walker because of his size. Wrong. At 9 months, he was walking.
Because he was a boy, I was told that heâ€™d probably be 3 before he was potty trained. Wrong again. From birth, my son hated having wet or dirty diapers. By the time he was a year old, he had learned how to take off his own diapers. By the time he was 18 months old, he wanted to use a potty chair, and at the age of 2, heâ€™d get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom without even waking me.
At 2, he read the alphabet â€“ right side up and upside down. He could also give the sounds of letters, since Iâ€™d played a tape for him about letter sounds. "Apple, apple, a, a, a; baby, baby, b, b, b..." Shortly after I discovered that Derek knew the alphabet, I had him tested by the same psychologist that the public schools used. His IQ test showed he was quite intelligent, just as Iâ€™d known all along. He tested at 164 IQ.
My son taught himself to read before he was 3. When he was 4, I tried getting him into kindergarten. I was told that public schools no longer allowed kids to enter kindergarten before the age of 5, nor did they ever allow a child to skip a grade. That was when I first started wondering about the public school system. But when I tagged along with his preschool class to visit the kindergarten, I really learned about the system.
We lived about 1.8 miles from the school where my son would attend. Because it was not 2 miles away, a school bus ride was not possible.
The walk to school would have been difficult for any adult, let alone a young child. Two blocks from the school, there was an intersection with 6 lanes going north/south and 4 lanes going east/west. No crossing guard was to be provided, although the intersection was dangerous. There just werenâ€™t enough children in our neighborhood to warrant the cost of safety for our children. Not only that, but parents were not allowed â€“ they were forbidden â€“ to act as unofficial crossing guards for kids other than their own. The school district didnâ€™t want to be liable for any errors or accidents.
The solution should have been for me to drive my son to kindergarten. That would have made sense, right? Wrong. The school didnâ€™t allow parents to drive on their property before or after school.
All of these facts were known before I ever set foot in the kindergarten classroom to observe. I was still struggling with how my son was going to safely attend kindergarten, attendance having been deemed a requirement and no longer just an option.
When we arrived at the kindergarten, what we found was truly amazing. There were 4 kindergarten classrooms nestled in a large room, separated only by partitions. Each class held 20 children, so there were 80 kids, 4 teachers and 2 teacherâ€™s aides in that room. When the class we observed was listening to the teacher read a story, the class next to us sang along to a record. One class jumped up and down and another was in the midst of a simple math game. The confusion was enough to give me a headache. I wondered if any of the kids were actually learning anything! Still, thinking that the school teachers and administrators knew better than I did about what my child could or couldnâ€™t handle in the way of confusion, I went away thinking there was still going to be a solution to his attending kindergarten in the public school.
I contacted an administrator to inquire about the gifted program for kindergarten students. The gentleman with whom I spoke informed me that only official school personnel could truly determine if my son was gifted. When I explained that I had used the same psychologist as the school district to ascertain my sonâ€™s intelligence, the administrator paused for what seemed a lifetime. Finally, he informed me that kindergarten kids were not tested for giftedness or learning disabilities. "In fact," he said, "we allow our children to have normal situations in both kindergarten and first grade. We test them for giftedness, if they are so recommended by their teachers, in the middle of second grade." He also informed me that my son would have to learn the "right way" to read, since he had probably taught himself the wrong way. What? The kid was reading and understanding 2nd grade books before he entered kindergarten! How wrong was that?
It was then and there that I decided that I needed a solution other than public school for my son. I was reminded of how brilliant my brother was, and how the school system let him down. Today, my brother is dying of liver and kidney problems associated with too much drinking. My brother, as brilliant as he was, left school in the middle of his senior year. I didnâ€™t want that same thing to happen to my son. But I could imagine that not challenging him might be detrimental to him.
I set about researching all the private schools in the area. There were Christian schools and Montessori schools. Interestingly, I discovered that the cost of each of the schools in our area was just about what I was already spending for preschool. Thatâ€™s right! Preschool was already in my budget, and I found that private school costs were quite similar to what I was already spending. Some were $50 less, some as much as $150 more per month than I was spending. But I was amazed to learn that the cost was not something astronomical.
Another discovery I made was that most private schools have programs for scholarships for children whose parents are not earning huge salaries. Since my spouse (now ex) had a stroke when our son was 3 and hadnâ€™t worked since and wasnâ€™t old enough for Social Security income (and too proud to take disability), we qualified for scholarships. Depending on the school, the tuition would be cut 10, 20, even 50%.
Yes, folks, it is possible for most parents to afford private schools. If one is already spending money on preschool, that budgeted money could be put towards private school tuition. Another way to look at it is this: the monthly tuition for many private schools is about the same amount many parents already spend for car payments. Is it really necessary to buy a new car every 3 or 4 years?
Complaining about the education your child is getting in public school? Worried about your childâ€™s safety? Are you wishing you could afford private school? Perhaps you can.
Note: Although my son is now 18 and graduated, I've shared this information with many people throughout the years since he started school. Although tuition costs for private schools have gone up over this time period, so have the costs of preschool and of cars and car payments, which are what I used for cost comparisons.
To find out about how and why we home schooled from 4th through 12th grade, read this.