I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Of recent topical interest to my friends and I is the whole private school versus public school debate... or more specifically, if private school is really worth the kidney you need to sell to afford it. DH and I chose to send our kids to a private school for primary school - mostly because we had some financial assistance which enabled us to do so, and also because it was important to us that they get a religious education from a young age. It's entirely possible to get that religious education through other means, but at the time we were making the decision, that was certainly a factor. The reality is, unless we get some extreme form of financial aid (or grow a few more kidneys), there is no way we will be able to afford to privately educate our kids through the end of high school. It's actually highly probable that their only private education will be to Grade 6 - because after that it becomes close to 60K per year and, call me crazy, I quite like being able to eat and have a roof over my head.

That being said, here's my official opinion on private school. I think there is a very small group of children for whom the opportunities private school offers will truly be the difference between living a average life, and living a highly successful life. I believe that the vast majority of children will fail or succeed regardless of the uniform they wear (here in Australia all children wear uniforms, both public and private). Simply paying enormous school fees guarantees nothing at all. In fact, conversations with The Neighbour's Wife about her teaching experiences have just reinforced my feeling that losers, nobodies, ignorants and total drop-kicks can be found even in a expensive blazer and school tie. Similarly, brilliant kids can be found at our local public schools. I think the parents who believe that private school will guarantee their child success in life are just fooling themselves... money does not buy success.

Success, to me, is something which is shaped in part by formal education - but it's also very much shaped by the education which occurs outside of school hours. Do you fill your home with books? Expose your children to cultural activities? Eat dinner together and chat about your day? What are you doing at home to ensure your child grows up to be a confident, contributing member of society? Why are you expecting that your school will do the work for you? Sure, your child might graduate speaking fluent French, having spent 4 weeks in Paris... but will you actually LIKE the person they are?

Let's suppose for a minute that someone offered me free tuition to a fabulous private school for all 3 of my kids. In all honesty, I'd have to consider the offer... but it's highly likely I'd reject that offer, too - for one or all of them. I firmly believe that as parents our responsibility is to our children - and to that end, we're responsible for finding the school which we believe will fit them best - not the one with the indoor pool and Olympic squash courts. If it turned out the best school for my kid was the one I couldn't afford.. well, then I'd have to consider what's best for us as a family - because I believe children can succeed in the right environment, and that environment is the one both in and out of the classroom. A friend recently said that they won't be able to afford family holidays and other luxuries while their child is in private school. I understand how important that decision is to her, but it's not one I could comfortably make myself. I simply couldn't sacrifice our family's general quality of life in that way, and I would worry about becoming resentful about it. I suppose this makes me selfish, and I'm okay with that. I also worry about the pressure on my child... knowing that his or her education was the reason we couldn't holiday, or enjoy life's luxuries - that's a lot of pressure to put on a kid.

Among my friends, the private school debate rages as we all consider what we want for our kids versus what we can afford, and in some part what we feel those schools can do for our kids. I'd be lying if I said there was not some element of societal acceptance as well - frankly, among many of my peers, a private school is considered the only option. To be heard to be considering a non-private school...is, well, akin to social suicide. Nowhere was this more true than on Cubs camp (a post I have yet to write... clearly my lack of private schooling has left me a slacker)... but that's another story for another day.

In the meantime, riddle me this - how much, really, is that private school education worth?


Poppets mum said...

I realised while living in the States that very few people send their kids to private schools whereas growing up here in Australia I can honestly say that 80% of the kids I knew went to a private school for most if not all of their school careers. The fact is that when I was a kid there was a big gap in the education you received from private schools v public schools. I honestly believe that gap has closed - most especially because of the quality of kids and parents now at these public schools due to the fact that private schools have become so expensive. At the end of the day you look at your kid, you visit the schools you want to consider and you choose what suits and what you can afford but most importantly where you think your kid will be happiest.

the bakers wife said...

My private education was fantastic for me, being a girl and going to a 'progressive-alternative' school. In fact most of the women I know who went there have achieved great things and lived without fear and have lives I admire. I have no doubt that it was because of the high school environment I was in.

However there are people from my school who did not get anything great from it, and my husband went to two different private schools and was happy to be rid of them. He even has those stories about how they held his ambitions back because they wouldn't let him take a subject as he might fail and mess up their grade averages.

Don't even get me started on single sex schools either. I mean, seriously, how well rounded will your education be if your teen socialisation does not involve negotiating with, arguing with and dealing with the opposite sex? How can you hold your ground with your sexist boss, your disrespectful classmate or even your Dad if you have not encountered the thinking patterns of 50% of the population for six years?

So yeah, sending your kid to a private school is hit and miss. It depends on the kid, the school and the family, absolutely. Finding the 'fit' is key.

My sister in law has the attitude that you pay the money so the school does the work, and her kids are dull, selfish and uppity (remembering, of course that they are teens anyway..).

Ultimately, don't beat yourself up about what you choose. It's your choice, your reasons. They will become the people they are in whatever environment. If that environment is one with family time (not both parents slogging to pay the fees) and family holidays, they will be happy and well adjusted anyway.