On the night before Barack Obama casts his socialist spell on the youth of America, I thought I’d finally follow up on my family’s school saga. If you’ve been around this blog for awhile, you may remember that last year I pulled my kids out of the hoity toity private school they’d always attended. It wasn’t a philosophical choice. We just couldn’t afford the astronomical tuition anymore. I meant to go back to the subject a few months later and tell y’all how my kids were doing in public school, but I never did.
Last week they started their second year in public school, and let me assure you right from the outset: it has been fine. I know, I know, a sob story about bullying, graffitied bathrooms, and burned-out teachers straight out of Up the Down Staircase would make a better story. Sorry, but it’s been fine.
The hoity toity private school (HTPS) was aimed at gifted children, and my kids were often top performers in their classes. I would’ve been reluctant to plonk them into regular classrooms. Fortunately, our school district offers a gifted program. Both of my girls tested into the program, and were placed in self-contained gifted classrooms—Tigger in 6th grade and Little Bit in 2nd grade. The kids in the program are very similar to the kids at HTPS, just not as rich.
Both girls had experienced, dedicated, and capable teachers. Both found their schoolwork adequately challenging. They gained a bunch of new friends, and unlike the friends at HTPS, the new ones live in our neighborhood. At the end of the year, both girls concluded that they’d learned more in the public school than they had the previous year at HTPS. (That’s a very powerful statement, considering the many thousands of dollars I didn’t spend to get a superior education.)
Well, it was just one year. Admittedly I’ve patted myself on the back for the wisdom of my (forced) choice to move them, but I’m not complacent. Who could be complacent when their eldest child was three days into the Big Scary Public Middle School (BSPMS)?
In our district, middle school is just seventh and eighth grades. So, one year after being rudely yanked out of the private school she’d loved and thrived in since preschool, Tigger had to switch schools yet again.
The middle school is a sprawling labyrinth of buildings connected by walkways twisting every which way. The children have five minutes to find their way from one class to the next. There’s no homeroom—no teacher assigned to be an advisor to a group of kids. If they have a problem they’d better find a way to solve it themselves. No more coddling for these twelve- and thirteen-year-olds.
In contrast, at Hoity Toity Private School (which goes up to 8th grade) the (tiny) middle school is contained in one cozy building. Kids have an advisor teacher as well as subject teachers. Transitions between classes are much gentler. At the end of the day, a fleet of minivan-driving parents arrives to whisk their progeny away. At BSPMS the kids walk home, or catch the bus.
Reading over what I’ve written, it sounds like the coddling private school will turn out soft, spoiled teens who can’t wipe their own butts, while the rugged public school kids will be ready for solo expeditions in treacherous environs (aka high school). I don’t know if that’s true. I know that my kid is going to do well. She’s smart and adaptable and always up for a new challenge. My younger child will also have a great year. She’s the most responsible, hard-working little kid I’ve ever met.
If I won the lottery, would I move the kids back to private school? Not this year. It is always better to have options than not to have them, but the Mega Millions jackpot has eluded me thus far. We’ll make do.