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Why do I spend so much to send my 4 year old to a private school?

I don’t send my 4 year old to a private school because I’m a snob. I certainly don’t send her to private school because I can afford it — in this economy, who can? I spend way too much money on private school because it’s my job as a parent to prepare my child for life, and to put it bluntly, I don’t have faith in the public schools to help me do that.

While I briefly entertained the idea of home schooling, my recollection of geometry and lack of patience made me realize I was not the best fit for the job of teaching my child.

Sara started going to school at the age of 2. I cried in the parking lot as my baby went to ‘school’ for the first time without looking back. When she turned 3, we visited a school that offered pk3-12th grade and we were immediately sold.

We were sold on how the teachers were happy and excited to be there with the children. We were sold on how the children were alert and learning. We were sold by a room full of 3 year olds sitting quietly in their chairs, raising their hands to speak! You could almost hear the angels singing as we opened the door into that bright classroom of possibility and promise.

During that first year, our 3 year old attended school Monday – Friday from 8-3. She came home with stories of how she ‘persevered’ and made ‘good decisions’. She learned how to write her name and made new friends, not only with her peers, but older children as well. The environment was supportive and competitive at the same time. Sara was rewarded and recognized for hard work and the result was a child who loved to learn, socially advanced, and structured.

This year, we had the opportunity to move her to a different private school. They didn’t offer a pre-school program, but they tested Sara and offered her a spot in their Kindergarten program. We wrestled with her development and questions of whether or not we were pushing her too hard, and the uncertain future of how she would handle being 17 and in college. In the end, she took the choice out of our hands when she picked up a book and started reading it from cover to cover for the first time.

When teachers and principals of public schools send their own children to private schools and charter schools, you can’t help but worry about the quality of education children are getting at the public school level. Not a week goes by without news of budget cuts, accreditation loss and investigations into testing fraud at public schools in Georgia. Why would I entrust my child to an education system where their own teaching staff send their children elsewhere? Why would I send my child to an establishment where mediocrity is accepted and the highest officials are a party to cheating?

People say, ‘I went to public school, and I turned out just fine!’

I am one of those people. One of my cousins went to a private high school and I never saw a difference in the quality of education I received versus what he received.

When my 4 year old can read the same book her 8 year old cousin in public school reads, I realize that the level of public school education has changed, and it’s only getting worse.

People say, ‘That’s just so much money to spend!’

I am one of those people. The economy sucks. Everyone is going through financial hardship, but instead of paying $1,400 / year for cable TV, we watch Netflix and play family Uno. Instead of paying $5,700 year in car payments, we drive a 12 year old car.

When my 4 year old tells me how many faces and indices are on a hexagonal prism, I realize that I would sacrifice a lot more than tv and a shiny new car for my daughter to have the education private school can provide.

The question isn’t whether or not we can ‘afford it’. The question is ‘how’.

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