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.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Great School Debate

We are in the process of finding a new school for one or more of my kids, and it's fascinating to me how much the whole private-versus-public debate is one which raises people's hackles.

Open Admission - I went to private school for K-4 and hated it, so then went to public school until 12th grade. DH was private school educated for all of his schooling, and our kids currently attend a private school.

Fact is, the school my kids are at is not currently meeting their academic or social needs - and this is after I've spent a good 18 months trying to advocate for them as much as I can. It's mostly DS who is struggling although his sisters are not doing great, either. I've consulted the teachers, sent my DS to whatever other professionals the school asked me to, and basically tried my best to make it work. No matter how loyal I am to the place (and 18 months of crap is a LOT of loyalty) I can no longer deny that it just is not the right place for at least one of my kids. So we're looking at what the options available to us are.

I actually have no real preference for public versus private, but I do have a preference for a place which can give my son (in particular) enough academic challenges so I am no longer forking out a bunch of dough to a psychologist who tells me he is bored at school. So my first port of call was actually public schools who had a gifted program. Guess what? Very few of them do, and those that have something are generally of the 'out of school' variety where you pay extra and your kid gets taken out of school X days a week. So it's not the school providing it as much as it is the school allowing your child to participate. One of our main concerns is our son's alienation from his peer group..and I'm not sure how that sort of program would address that concern.

I then discovered that several public primary schools have an innovative program which, while not strictly for gifted kids, can be adapted in the classroom for their needs. Of the FOUR schools offering the program near us, we are between 0.5 and 2 kms out of their 'zone' to be considered for entry...which meant that over the phone I got a "no chance in hell" answer when I asked about enrolment. I then called the Department of Education, who basically repeated the above options and told me, "good luck" when it comes to finding a primary school which can help with gifted needs.

So I turned to the private sector - where again, I'm quite surprised to hear that there is not much in the way of extension work, and again it's of the more exclusionary style of days or hours spent outside of class. There seems to be more scope in the private sector, though - but this seems to be because parents have better recourse when their kids' needs are not met (eg "I'm paying X for this education and you are doing enough to help him.") In a public system, I'm not sure exactly how far you would get if you had a grievance (although this would be teacher and school dependant.)

What I've learned is that it's not all that easy to be on one side or another of the bell curve...which in a way I suppose I already knew.

Today I was talking to a friend who said she didn't understand why private school cost so much - why isn't it just more accessible to those who want it? (I should say this was in the context of a religion-based school discussion). I didn't agree with her sentiment (because I think there ARE ways to access religious education in a budget-friendly way) but it was an interesting discussion...mostly because I am lucky enough to find myself with the choice of public versus private. I have the luxury of choice in this situation (well, I might...time will tell.) Fact is, if DS had to go to public school - he would survive, I'm sure of it. After all, plenty of kids do - gifted or otherwise. But isn't it our role as parents to give our kids the very best we can? I'm not saying we should sacrifice our quality of life for private school tuition (although plenty of people do), I'm just wondering if it's our responsibility as parents to give our kids every opportunity we can.

So tell me. Is it a requirement that we give our kids the best opportunities we can? Or is that, too, a luxury, and our kids should just be glad we feed and bathe and house them? What is the extent of our parental responsibility when it comes to this sort of stuff?


Rachel said...

I believe that, of course you should do the best you can for your kids but, when it comes to schooling and, specifically, public versus private, there is no right or wrong answer. It's an intensely personal decision and really depends on the child and where they will be happiest. For me, that is undoubtedly the most important thing. My eldest was on the gifted list at his primary school and could have gone to a local grammar secondary, but he opted to go to the local comprehensive (with out blessing - we actually preferred it too), and is really happy there and doing very well. Private school was never an option for us due to finances, but I feel 100% that he is at the best place for him. I really hope you find the right school for your three.

emzeegee & the hungry three said...

Thanks Rachel - it's all proving far harder than I thought!