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HELP – Public Schools, Private Schools or Homeschooling?

Calling all experts!

We need your help. First of all, if you came here because you thought this post was going to tell you how to decide between sending children to public schools or private schools or homeschooling, you are in the right place. But not because I’ve got all the answers, but because a lot of other smart people out there do, and I’m counting on them to share what they have learned.

So the place to find your answers concerning public, private or homeschooling will be in the comments below. There are so many great parents out there that have walked down the path before us, and we can learn from their experience… their successes, and yes, even their mistakes. So please weigh in below with your advice or questions on this important decision.

Teacher with Students - Public Schools, Private Schools or Homeschooling?

I’m a first time dad with a daughter who just turned 4-years-old, and I honestly don’t feel like I know enough about her education options to make the best decision for her. If you’re someone that’s made these decisions before, please help us out and share your advice via the comments below. Help us make the best choices for our kids. You’ll be helping a lot of people.

I do understand that there really are a lot of flavors in each of the categories (public, private, homeschooling, etc.) and perhaps that is part of what’s so confusing. What did you choose and why? Did you change from one type of schooling to another at some point, or did you do a mix of two? Were any of the following factors in your choice. Would you make a different one if you could.

What influenced your choice?

  • Best academic results
  • Least expensive option
  • Socialization opportunities
  • Safest physical environment
  • Convenient for the parent(s)
  • Chosen for religious reasons
  • Has equipment (e.g. science labs)
  • Pace/level is tailored to suit student
  • Instructor subject knowledge in more areas
  • Less risk of bullying or negative influences
  • It was closest to home or only choice
  • Prepares best for college/real world
  • Or a hundred other reasons?

It’s probably unnecessary to say this, but please be respectful in responding to others comments below. People have strong feelings about this subject, and rightly so. Most of all, I want to thank you in advance for your advice. And if you’re someone like me who’s still trying to figure all of this out, please leave your questions for the experts in the comments, too.

Thank you so much for your help!

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  1. Erica M

    I have a 17-year-old high school junior special needs kid who started out in private school in Houston. That didn’t go well for various reasons that have nothing to do with your daughter’s situation, but I did end up moving specifically away from the Houston pubic (and private) school system into a top 10 Texas district for my daughter’s special needs. We have never looked back. I’m bored as hell in this suburb, but she’s in the best place possible.

    So since the school district rated highly for special needs education, we didn’t look beyond private preschool for our typical needs boys who are now 11 and 3. The 11-year-old went to private school until he was 5, then public kinder. The 3-year-old started private pre-primary school today and as soon as he hits 5, he’ll follow in the older ones’ footsteps.

    I’ve never considered homeschooling because I don’t have the personality for it unless sleeping all day is an acceptable curriculum for Texas. It very well could be, but I like my children out of the house during my naps.

    Hope this helps.

    1. Michael Schmid

      I’ll look into that sleeping all day curriculum option, but I’m guessing it’s not. Thanks so much. Actually you’ve raised a point, that I’ve been wondering. How many people sell their house and move in order to be in a better school district? Honestly that’s been on my mind, though it would, as you say, Leave me in the burbs with quite a commute to work. Clearly your special needs situation makes that choice much more important. I’ve known a fair number of parents that do private until 5th or 6th, and then move to public. What is the main reason for that switch? Thanks so very much for your advice. Every little bit is hugely helpful to me, as my wife and I enter this brave new world.

  2. Shell

    I’m a former public school teacher and I always assumed I would send my kids to public school. I never even thought of homeschooling, even though I’m certified to teach all subjects K-9. I think it’s hard for kids to make the adjustment from homeschooling to a regular classroom setting(in general, I know there are exceptions, but I’m sharing what I saw in my years of teaching). Plus sometimes I think my kids need to hear something from someone who isn’t me!

    Private school seemed like more of a luxury we couldn’t afford. The public schools near us have a good reputation. So I didn’t really even think much about it before decided to send our oldest there.

    Then it was time to send my middle son to school. At the time, we just knew there was something going on with him, as well as the lead poisoning that he had. No official diagnosis, but we just felt like he would get lost in the regular public school classroom. We struggled with the decision- you can see that here, as well as in the comments where my readers weighed in: http://thingsicantsay.com/2011/04/public-vs-private-school-a-decision-i-never-thought-id-make.html

    He was in the private school for half a year and then we pulled him out when we were told that he could finish out the semester but that they didn’t have the means to service him. He was diagnosed with PDD-NOS shortly after that and then we enrolled him in public school, where they had a plan in place from day 1 as to how to best help him(thanks to a meeting with the teachers involved and the principal a few weeks before he started there).

    It’s a hard decision to make. And one each parent has to make- and sometimes has to be made by individual child and not even for the whole family.

    1. Michael Schmid

      Thank you so much for your help, Shell! And thanks for sharing the link to your post. Anyone else reading this should also read Shell’s post and the interesting comments at http://thingsicantsay.com/2011/04/public-vs-private-school-a-decision-i-never-thought-id-make.html. It really does help to hear how others made the choices they did, and how that turned out. I really LOVE the Internet and parent blogs as a means to share, support and learn from each other. Mostly I learn from all of you.

  3. Shay

    I would definitely look into all the schools in your area and what they have to offer. Choosing a school will depend on what you want for your child and what qualities are most important to you. We chose homeschooling and it has worked out great for us. My kids get individualized attention from me and the ability to focus and learn more about things they are really interested in. I enjoy picking their curriculum and am learning quite a lot myself! We get plenty of socialization from playgroups, sports, church, and classes I’ve enrolled them in. I’ve written a lot more about it on my blog if you’re interested! Its not for everyone but it has really worked for our family. Whatever decision you make, I wish you the best! :)

    1. Michael Schmid

      I was hoping some people would weigh in on options like “homeschooling”. Thanks, Shay. I’ll definitely check out your blog. I like the idea of a child getting individualized attention and the ability to focus and learn more about things they are really interested in. And it would seem key to get plenty of socialization from playgroups, sports, church, and classes I’ve enrolled them in. On the subject of classes… if the parent(s) doing the instruction are weak in a particular area, say advanced mathematics(raising my hand) do you trade off with other home schooling parents who are stronger in that area? Will you homeschool the full K-12 or switch to something else part way? Thanks so much for your thoughts on this, Shay!

  4. Maggie

    We chose to homeschool our children. For us, the public schools in our area are sub par, at best. There are a few very successful private schools around, but we can not afford them right now. We’re just beginning Kindergarten this year. My daughter is already reading chapter books, doing multiplication tables and making yogurt & cheese for a science curriculum. We’re not locked in a room all day, we go to museums, libraries, have “learning picnics”, take nature walks, etc. As far as socialization, it is what you put into it. Our daughter takes dance classes, soccer, gymnastics, church, and many playdates with our local homeschooling groups. For areas that we are lacking in, we have a community of people to help; a friend is an art teacher who gives weekly art lessons, our daughter will take music lessons and join the homeschooling groups’ band. We don’t know how long we will homeschool. Homeschooling is such a personal choice for each individual family. Please don’t let others sway you in one direction or another. No one knows your family better than you :) Good luck!

    1. Michael Schmid

      Please don’t let others sway you in one direction or another. No one knows your family better than you :) Good luck!

      Very good point. Thank you for sharing your homeschooling experience thus far. As you can tell from my post, I’m simply seeking what will be best for our daughter, and also for our family. You’ve provided some great food for thought, and allayed some concerns I had about the homeschooling option. I suppose it’s success is grounded in the parents’ commitment to a well rounded home education program.

  5. Timmi

    Our daughter is in public school right now and we love it. Where we live the schools are very good. We did move to another town a few years ago mainly because its more affordable here as opposed to where we were living but also because of the schools. If we would have stayed in our previous town, we would have had to move into a much nicer (and unaffordable) part of town or else go private. Right now their school system is in a transition phase with year-around schooling. Only a few elementary schools have year-around school and others do not. I have nothing against year-around schooling (and actually think its a good thing) but scheduling daycare and babysitters is a nightmare from what I hear, and those year-around schools are in the not so nice, but affordable, parts of town. We love the community where we live but definitely get the scoop on all your choices, if you have them. I have no idea if they have a private elementary school here, we would not be able to afford it anyways. Private elementary schools are a new thing in our previous town, so some may not even have the choice

    1. Michael Schmid

      We live in a large city, so there are many education options, but not all of them are good ones. Thank you so much for sharing your experience, Timmi. As I mentioned, one thing I want to look into is the possibility of moving. Though going through the loss on the sale of our house, and then paying a premium on a lesser home due to the school district is not so appealing, but may be necessary for the sake of our little girl. While several private options exist near us, the cost in most cases (on top of the taxes we pay for public schools) are largely prohibitive. Haven’t encountered the year round schooling here, yet. Thanks again for your thoughts!

  6. Tim

    We have a GREAT public school in the city here…but we lived 30 minutes away. We scrimped and saved and found a rehab we could afford. Now we live in the best school district and are 20 minutes closer to work. Of course, we increased our mortgage payments, but by less than private school.
    I believe patents have greater impact than schools, but this worked out very well to help us.

    1. Michael Schmid

      I’m wondering if moving may be necessary for us as well. Unfortunately in our case it will mean moving farther from work, but our daughter comes first. I believe, though we’re still investigating, there may be a good elementary option in our public school district that may not require a move, but after that I’m not so sure. Thanks for sharing what you all did. It helps.

  7. Megan M.

    First, I have to provide the caveat that I am the child of a public school teacher. I know that my meals and clothes as a teen were a direct result of her employment. The flip side of the positives I garnered is that I was also exposed to the inside story, the negatives of the public school system.
    That being said, my first statement to you is that because you even care to ask this question, any child you put through any educational process is more likely to succeed than many. Why?
    Because you care.
    Because education is important to you as a parent.
    My three children are part of the public school system in our community. When my oldest was approaching time to start school, the biggest decision we had to make was if we were going to send him to the school we were districted for, or to the one where my mother teaches.
    Our final decision was to sent him where we were supposed to be, not because the school was better, but because it allowed him a better opportunity to screw up, all on his own. While that sounds harsh, it’s the truth. We learn best from the mistakes we make, and I feared that under the watchful eye of his grandmother, my son would not have the opportunity to make his own mistakes. I don’t want him to fail, ever, but I needed to know that he could slip a bit.
    A few years ago, financial chaos within our state meant our school corporation lost approximately 7 million dollars a year in state funding. I was already involved at the building level, volunteering once a week in the library, going on field trips, helping out at other events when I could. At that point I became more involved. I, for the first (and possibly the last) time ever, became politically involved. And I met people. I met other teachers. I met members of our school board. I met our superintendent. And I learned how passionate these people were about providing the very best for our kids.
    We had one year in there where, because funding was not secure, we struggled with large class sizes, and shortages in some supplies and supplementary programs. Know what happened?
    Our teachers worked extra, with no increase in pay. Because they want the kids to succeed. They taught, they worked together, they supported our kids. And my kids flourished.
    I’d love to say that it’s because of our teachers, and that’s a huge part of it. I know, however, that a bigger part is my role. My husband’s role. Because we are INVOLVED parents. Our children knew that education was important to us, and we made it a priority. This year, my husband has taken on the role of PTO president.
    Public school was important to me because it provided the best, most diverse atmosphere for the kids. A private school would expose my children to children and families that were similar to ours. Real life is not like that. Real life is working with people who think differently, who look different, who face different challenges. Exposure to real life is part of childhood education, in my mind.
    My position is that the school, public, private or homeschooling, is only the barest surface. The most important part is for the parents to care. To be involved. To participate at as many levels as possible.
    Your kids need to know you care. When you care, they’ll care.
    I can’t answer what is right for YOU, but those are the thoughts and processes I went through when making my decisions!

    1. Michael Schmid

      Megan, I can’t thank you, and the other wonderful parents that have responded to my request for help with such detailed, measured, thoughtful responses. While everyone doesn’t share the same experience or made the same choices… I think you are very right in the following statement:

      My position is that the school, public, private or homeschooling, is only the barest surface. The most important part is for the parents to care. To be involved. To participate at as many levels as possible. Your kids need to know you care. When you care, they’ll care.

      My mother was a public school teacher as was my uncle. I certainly saw the downside of public schools through my uncle’s eyes in particular. That said, I’ve never met a teach more dedicated to his students. He spent his own money buying/building science equipment when the school didn’t.

      I really appreciate all the food for thought. Being so heavily involved and present at the school sounds like something that really made a difference for your kids. Thanks again.

  8. Kara

    We’ve done or toyed with all of the above. You probably know that my stepson, Kurt’s Zachary, was homeschooled from grade 3 I think. While I wasn’t around during that time I can say with certainty that that situation turned out a very well rounded chap. We also homeschooled after removing him from a private preschool that was just letting him play on the computer all day. While our situation is vastly different (Jude has a dx of PDD-NOS) I think it depends on the environment and the parents. Kurt is a realllyyyy good teacher. Could I do it? No way. But Kurt had taught before and it worked for us for awhile and alleviated all the school anxiety that gets our kiddo out of whack.

    You raised the question of moving to be in the right school district. Well after a year in a great public school and then a year in a horrible public school, we decided “move for the school!” The good thing about it is we are in one of the best 4 public schools in Nashville. The worst is that they are now 12% over capacity because a whole bunch of folks did exactly the same thing. And that just stretches the resources uber-thin.

    Private schools are tricky for PDD. My bet is we wind up either moving again for a school that fits what we are looking for — which isn’t just a school that handles PDD, etc. but a school that isn’t just focused on test scores (our current school) and interested in shoving kids through the system (our last school). I will be honest, I’ve researched EVERYTHING and if I had the money…I’d probably put him and Declan in a Waldorf school. There are some Waldorfy things that bug me (they can’t use black crayons…?) but I think it fits more the way we think.

    Good luck…just do a lot of research! You know when you find the right school. :)

    1. Michael Schmid

      You’re situation is certainly more challenging than most, Kara. It certainly sounds like Kurt and you’ve done a wonderful job, and are putting your kids ahead of your own convenience. I suppose that’s what good parents do. As you noted, at some point we may likely make the decision to move to get better schools. Good luck as you continue to navigate this path. I can’t imagine the challenge.

      Per one comment you mad on Waldorf schools. My uncle, a retired public middle school teacher, had a close friend who joined a Waldorf school. His perception (I personally know nothing of these schools) was they are a bit of a “cult” (his word) with many very odd beliefs imparted to the kids. I would strongly recommend you do a lot of reading on them if you think of going that route.

  9. Kara

    (homeschooled Julian I meant…sorry!)

    1. Michael Schmid

      I understood. Thanks so much for your help!

  10. Alex | Perfecting Dad

    You have to be involved, I think that’s the important thing. If you just want a hands-off solution then have a look at the type of kids that go there, because your child will likely turn into one of them. I would say, if you can homeschool then you probably should — you have an MBA and you say your wife is smarter than you so you should be able to handle teaching up to a few years no matter who stays home! If you go to school then I recommend you try to get your kid skipped up a grade before she even starts school, and monitor what she’s learning and doing with her time. Teachers and classes are all different.

    Look to my blog tomorrow for a piece on why I recommend grade skipping :)

    1. Michael Schmid

      Thank you, Alex. I’ll check out your blog post on grade skipping. I really appreciate your advice!

      1. Alex | Perfecting Dad

        Got your question and posted a detailed answer on my blog. Thanks for checking me out!

  11. Reka

    I am totally assured by the results of homeschooling, both of my sons have learnt this way, fortunately, I have got some pedagogical experiences from my profession (kindergarden-teacher) and honestly I have really enjoyed it to explain the things to my children the way I want to.

    1. Michael Schmid

      Hi Reka. I’ve had very limited exposure to homeschooling, though the three homeschooled children (now all in college) I had a chance to meet (extended family) were impressively well rounded, well mannered and downright brilliant. That said, the mother, like you, had formal pedagogical training, and experience in applying it prior to taking on homeschooling. I imagine the success thereof is largely in the hands of the parents or others assisting with it. And as others have mentioned above, that holds true for children in any of these options, e.g. public school. Thank you very much for your thoughts.

  12. deb

    I have raised 5 children, the last one is 10 now . Public schools seem okay in Elementary school but after that you really have to be careful or you lose your child to their peers and they become but a number in a vast abiss that is called Public Education. Private schools or Religious schools are often VERY expensive but if you can afford it that is the way I would go. I can’t afford it. My child is in a Public Charter school that goes from K-8 at the moment. I didn’t want him ending up in some miserable middle school with bad teachers, bullies and over all a bad education. The Charters offer school choice. They are more hands on, They ask and use for Parent input. Parent volunteering is a must and kids are taught on a more individual plan and NOT just a number in the school. Activities and sports cost more maybe.. Maybe school supplies cost more but its worth it to have a more tailored plan for your child and have a more close relationship with the teachers and administrators. I moved my son to this charter school when he was in 3rd grade. He loves it.. No looking back.

    1. Michael Schmid

      The cost of private schools, as you say, can certainly give one pause. We pay so much in local taxes already, most of which goes to the public school district, so I’d rather go that route… but there are so many other factors to weigh. I really appreciate everyone’s advice. Thanks, Deb. A nephew went to a charter school (in another city) for a number of years, and it was really great, but I don’t believe we have one near us. As for homeschooling, my wife (and whatever support network we could build to assist) would have to do it, so she’s got to be fully comfortable with that. I can certainly see pros and cons in all the choices. Thanks again!

  13. Karen

    I think we’re in the same area (I’m in Flower Mound). The 21 year old was in public for three years, then homeschooled to graduation. The 16 year old was homeschooled through fourth, private school (Coram Deo Academy) through ninth, now in Media Arts Academy (a ResponsiveEd charter) and is considering finishing up through homeschool. We’re in discussions, as they say. Basically, it depends on the child, but I think looking at small class size, a flexible curriculum, and time for unstructured play is important in the earlier years. As they’re older, peer groups are important, and there are many options for homeschooling enrichment and support in the DFW area. The homeschool prom blew me away! Equally important is giving them time to pursue their passions and not have to focus on a one-size-fits-all curriculum.

    My son is a college senior this year and will start his master’s next year. My daughter can’t decide: business degree? cosmetology? photography? modeling? She’s thought of it all, and I can’t wait to see what she does with her life. They’re both well-rounded people I am honored to know, and their educational choices have been joint decisions since around the age of ten. Feel free to contact me with questions. FWIW, I worked at least part-time the entire ten years we homeschooled. Hubby worked full-time.

    1. Michael Schmid

      Hi, Karen. Yes, we are not all that far from y’all. Sounds like your kids are doing great. Congrat’s on your son pursuing his Masters. I have to say that, as I’m in higher ed. 😉 I love that your daughter has that kind of freedom to figure out where her passions lie, and follow her proverbial bliss. I went to both private schools in Europe and also public in the US, but at that time no one said to me do what you love. I wish they had. Thanks worked out fine, but I want to do better for my daughter. Thanks for all the great information, Karen!

  14. Belmont Schools

    I think private school. Because it’s much better than public school and homeschooling. Being in private school has many advantages. You may get better knowledge and education with better facilities. In public school facilities are not there. So Private school.

    1. Michael Schmid

      Thank you for your thoughts. I’m sure you will agree not all public, private or for that matter homes are created equal. I’ve no doubt yours is a fine school, but I don’t believe the decision can be quite that cut and dried. Also, as you are in Australia, there may be other differences when compared to different places in the USA? I’m sure many will agree with you, and perhaps with good reason. That’s why I’m seeking this help. Thanks again.

  15. Nicholas

    I am sure that all three types of schooling will evidence good and bad examples of teachings, personal to the observer and their valid but varied opinions of what ‘good’ looks like. I have seen, experienced personally and heard of all three delivering good and poor quality results in their areas of expertise. For my partner and I, and our 2 children it’s less about quality of teaching and more about type of content, and what it is we want to teach our children, or have your child taught. We do not want our children to be averaged, taught to tow the line, be obedient or very importantly to become a consumer. It is also important to us that our children are not taught a history written by victors of war and commercial champions. For this reason, our second child will be home educated. Our first is already in the system, getting a good education through public schooling and growing through the challenges imposed on her by our mistakes in her early education. We do and will face challenges with both childs education and the key for us is to remember their individuality so that we can facilitate their adventure in whichever environment.

    1. Michael Schmid

      You make some great points in favor of good homeschooling. It sounds like, if the parent(s) are up to it and plenty of socialization and other outside opportunities are included it can work quite well. Still that’s a big thing to take on. Please stop back by (if you can find us again) after you start home schooling your second child and let us know how it goes. I’m still waffling between all of the choice, but all of your wonderful input has been super helpful. Thank you, Nicholas!

  16. Kelli

    We sold our house and decided to move to a smaller public school system. We could not, and still can’t afford private school, and haven’t felt like homeschooling was right for us. We still discuss homeschooling, but our kids are in 6th and 7th grades, so that is a little intimidating. We live in a close-knot community, we know many of the kids and teachers. My husband works within the school system (not as a teacher). We researched the area schools before we decided where to move. We prayed A LOT! We are very happy with our choice. The kids have a few sports and music programs to choose from, as well as academic opportunities. One of us almost always chaperones on trips, and we attend all of their extra-curricular activities. This helps us get to know everyone better, and the kids enjoy that we participate. This may not be the perfect situation for everyone, but it is nicely balanced dor us! I will say, we still wonder if this is the right choice, but we do have great kids who love the Lord.

    1. Michael Schmid

      It sounds like you went through many of the same thoughts we are now. I’m thinking moving to a smaller outlying city with better public schools may be a more financially viable option for us, too. That said, I don’t mind sacrificing for our daughter. My family is everything to me. Your personal involvement sounds like an important factor. Clearly wonderful kids can emerge from less than optimal educational opportunities, and I believe their parents play a large role in that. Thanks for sharing your experience, Kelli.

  17. Cassie

    I think it all depends on what fits best for your family. I have home schooled my oldest two for a couple of years and that education is as good as the time you put into it. There is a ton of information on curriculums etc. on the Internet, much of it is free. There are also homeschooling groups so you can pool resources, since one parent may be better at science and another better at math and so forth. We did it since I was available as a SAHM at the time and we were moving. (3 homes in 2 years). I felt it would offer more continuity. Currently my kids are in Catholic school which I chose because I value the religious education. However one of your earlier commenters mentioned about parents being involved… Even in the most expensive private school, your child can do poorly if parents don’t reinforce the study skills, organization etc. Likewise I think, if you are willing to put in the extra effort, ensuring they receive the one on one attention, extr tutoring when required and that they take advantage of all the extra electives and extra curriculars your child can do well anywhere. I would not advise moving just for the school system. That is a constant changing thing. I would try to make the most of what you have available. I hope this helps somewhat. It is a personal decision and I’m sure your daughter will do fine.

    1. Michael Schmid

      Even in the most expensive private school, your child can do poorly if parents don’t reinforce the study skills, organization etc. Likewise I think, if you are willing to put in the extra effort, ensuring they receive the one on one attention, extra tutoring when required and that they take advantage of all the extra electives and extra curriculars your child can do well anywhere.

      Great advice. Thank you, Cassie. Thanks also for the last bit about not moving, but rather making the most of what’s available. I do worry if we move someplace with good elementary schools, how will their middle and high schools be many years from now. Will we have to move again. Not a happy prospect. Thanks again, Cassie!

  18. Jo Eberhardt

    Firstly, I have to agree with the former commentor who said that you’re already WAY ahead of the game because you’re thinking about which option would be best for your daughter.

    And really, that’s the question: What would be best for YOUR daughter. Everyone can weigh in with opinions, but your family situation, expectations, desires, and your daughter’s personality, temperament and needs are going to be different to that of everyone else. So my main recommendation is to check out your options personally. Don’t just look at websites, or talk to people on the phone — go to every school that you consider and ask for a school tour. If you’re at the school at drop-off or pick-up time, talk to some of the other parents. Meet with parents in the area who homeschool. Almost every parent likes to talk about why they chose the education route they did, and talking to people in your own community will give you a great feel for the individual schools there. Because, as you say, not all private and public schools are created equal.

    As to the decisions that my husband and I made, we ruled out public schools based on overcrowding, lack of teacher availability, and the really high likelihood of bullying and aggressive behaviour. We considered homeschooling, but I don’t have the temperament to focus on schooling every day for the next 18 years. I need some time to be ME instead of Mum. Plus, we really wanted to give our boys an opportunity to express their individuality away from the family home. We considered a few different private options, and eventually decided to send our boys to a Steiner Waldorf school. We’re incredibly happy with it. This style of schooling is definitely not for everyone, but I highly encourage people to check it out. Some of the reasons we went with Waldorf are:

    * Small and consistent class sizes. Plus, the children stay in the same group from kindergarten through until the end of high school.

    * Very minimal chance of bullying. With such a small school, and small class sizes, any unusual or bullying behaviour is noticed very quickly by the teachers.

    * A focus on teaching and encouraging the child in a wholistic way (mind, body and spirit) rather than a purely academic focus. Through this, the teachers strice to instill a love of learning, not a hatred for memorising facts.

    * Although it’s a private school, the price is way, way, way cheaper than any religious private school I’ve come across. (Not sure if this is across the board, or just our school though.)

    * Steiner Waldorf kids are incredibly prepared for the real world and for college/university. So much of their schooling is self-driven in the final years of high school, that they’re used to making decisions and following through on academic projects. They come out of the school system with an ability to think creatively and problem solve, and with the self-confidence and self-assurance to choose their own path in life.

    As I said, we couldn’t be happier with the choice we made. It’s a perfect fit for our sons, and the teachers are simply amazing. I’d definitely recommend taking a school tour and talking to people to see if it’s a fit for your family.

    1. Michael Schmid

      What would be best for YOUR daughter. Everyone can weigh in with opinions, but your family situation, expectations, desires, and your daughter’s personality, temperament and needs are going to be different to that of everyone else. So my main recommendation is to check out your options personally. Don’t just look at websites, or talk to people on the phone — go to every school that you consider and ask for a school tour…

      That makes a lot of sense. Some schools try to limit visits to time when students aren’t there, which bugs me a bit. When you say Steiner Waldorf, is that the same was what many just call Waldorf? My uncle, a retired public middle school teacher, had a close friend who taught at a Waldorf school. My uncle’s perception (I personally know nothing of these schools) was they are a bit of a “cult” (his word) with many very odd beliefs imparted to the kids? Did you find it so?

      Thanks for your help, Jo!

      1. Jo Eberhardt

        I know this reply was over a month ago, but I only just realised you’d asked me a question. My bad! :)

        Yes, Steiner Waldorf is the same as just Waldorf. In Australia (where I’m from), they’re just known as Steiner Schools. I understand in the US they’re known as Waldorf, and in the UK/Europe, they’re Steiner Waldorf. You know, just to confuse us all. :)

        As for whether it’s a “cult”, the simple answer is no. The curriculum is quite different to mainstream schools, so that can often seem strange and confronting to outsiders, which seems to naturally result in Stainer/Waldorf families socialising together. I suppose that makes it seem a little “cult-like”. Overall, the education system promotes a love of stories, the natural world, and learning. There is less focus on academics at a young age, and more of a focus on enjoying the learning process and encouraging a creative, enquiring mind. In the teen years, the academics really picks up, and by the end of high school most Steiner/Waldorf kids are well ahead of mainstream students in academic subjects. However, because this happens differently, it’s an education system that a family really needs to commit to — changing horses mid-stream doesn’t work as effectively.

        But again, there are bound to be some Waldorf schools out there that something like what your uncle described — there’s good and bad in every school system. I’d just recommend not ruling out the option until you’ve done a school tour and learned more about it — and discovered whether it would suit your family.

        From my perspective, it’s the best decision we’ve ever made for our kids. And that’s coming from a family where both myself and my husband were high-achievers academically.

        1. Michael Schmid

          Hi Jo. Thanks for your detailed response. For some reason it got caught in my spam filter. Sorry. The one my uncle spoke of was in California. I know nothing of them, personally. Thanks for your input. That helps. Hope all is going well this Christmas season for you and yours?

  19. jane

    We’ve done private and public and my advice is this: If you are in a good school system (and we are) public schools can be awesome, and are my first choice. They can offer so many more things than private schools (my kids are on the tennis team, golf team, orchestra, etc.) Yes, we are in the suburbs. Why do suburbs get such a bad rap? We love it where we live! Our schools are good, our neighborhood is safe, our neighbors are nice, the cul-de-sacs are full of kids. I love it.

    I don’t want to offend anyone, but homeschooling would never be an option for me. Your kids have you as a huge influence in their lives (yes, even in those teen years you are an influence.) I say let loose of them a bit! Let them experience school with their peers. Those can be some of the best years of their lives!

    Just my two cents……good luck!

    1. Michael Schmid

      Great points about the pro’s of public schools (if they are good ones). I don’t knock the suburbs, either. It may be that we’ll have to move in order to get better public schools and safer neighborhoods. Seems overwhelming, but we’ll need to decide soon. Thanks for your thought, Jane.

  20. Michael Schmid

    You all rock! I’ll respond more personally tomorrow, but I REALLY appreciate the very thoughtful (in the full meaning of the word) advice you are providing. It helps us, and it also helps the many people that will read this in the future and benefit for your knowledge. Thank you!

  21. Danielle

    My vote is move to NY! :)
    buy a house in a good school district (near us) (our plan someday) and then save your private school tuition for college (or school taxes in some cases),,, and homeschool after school the things that you are passionate about and love and feel comfortable with! :) (near us…. am i biased?)

    but mostly in NY :)
    near us!
    D

    1. Michael Schmid

      LOL. Now I may be reading between the lines just a bit, Danielle, but you seem to be suggesting moving near you guys in NY might be a good idea! :)

  22. Lisa Smith

    Great input all. Will try to keep concise.

    Like you, in suburban area w lots of choices, highly rated schools but our particular neighborhood on the mid-lower end of those in district. Private expensive; Catholic didn’t fit our needs.

    DD-now HSJR in public magnet school for the arts. Went thru immersion ES, arts magnet middle – all public, all relatively close.

    DS-now 8th grade- at a Friends school, w fin aid but still $$. Started at public ES..we moved him after 2nd grade. Will attend public local HS next year.

    Public school – worked well for DD. Good student, social, appropriately challenged/accelerated her in Math & writing. Class size didn’t bother her although large-ish at 28 in ES.

    Didn’t work so well for son DS. Frustrated w rote memorization & lack of creativity. Little support for organizational weakness. Felt stifled w lack of physical movement & punitive nature of school during recess/lunch.

    Private school has been excellent, nurturing environment for him. Small class size 12-15, much more hands on & integrated curriculum. Adequate support and accountability for his disorganization.

    For HS, private seems small & he has better capability to handle larger, structured environment now.

    IMHO easier to switch from public ES to private than vice versa but may depend on competitiveness of schools where you are.

    Homeschooling crossed my mind for brief minutes when they were younger but I don’t think I’m cut out for it.

    I have a concept of a 3-2 partnership school where kids go 3 days and then parents take them other 2 days to explore subject deeper w field trips, speakers, projects, research etc. based on kid’s lead. Individuals or small groups. Just build in more creativity & open ended integration.

    Hope that all helps.

    1. Michael Schmid

      Yes, it does help, Lisa. May I write you as we get further into our decision process if I have questions? Interesting points:

      IMHO easier to switch from public ES to private than vice versa but may depend on competitiveness of schools where you are.

      Homeschooling crossed my mind for brief minutes when they were younger but I don’t think I’m cut out for it.

      I have a concept of a 3-2 partnership school where kids go 3 days and then parents take them other 2 days to explore subject deeper w field trips, speakers, projects, research etc. based on kid’s lead. Individuals or small groups. Just build in more creativity & open ended integration.

      Hadn’t considered the Public to Private transition versus the other way around, as far as challenges. That makes sense, at least in some situations, I’ll bet.

      I understand your concerns about homeschooling, I’d have the same, though there apparently are some ways to mitigate our areas of weakness by sharing the load/subjects?

      Interesting thought about the 3-2 partnership school where kids go 3 days and then parents take them other 2 days. Is anyone doing that?

      Thanks again, Lisa!

  23. Leyla

    I have a Masters of Education and taught in public schools before becoming a parent. We chose to homeschool our kids (we had two at the time, we now have four). There are a hundred reasons, but for the purposes of this comment, I’ll use your outline.

    What influenced your choice?

    Best academic results: No teacher can optimize the education of every child in a class. I had as many as 32 kids in my classes. I wanted my kids to get an education that was tailored to their needs, skills, and interests.

    Least expensive option: Doesn’t really apply to us because expensive private schools have the same issues as free public ones.

    Socialization opportunities: 30+ kids in a tiny room is not socialization, it’s institutionalization. Kids in a class are rarely allowed time or permission to hang out and talk. Recess is down to 20 minutes a day. My kids take many extracurricular classes. They play with each other. They play with neighborhood kids. They hang out with homeschooled friends, during “school hours”. They go to Park Days with our giant Homeschool group. We had 16 kids over for a Halloween Party last week. They get to socialize with kids they like, not just ones who are their exact age and grade level.

    Safest physical environment: I don’t have to worry about my child with life-threatening allergies not getting the help she needs. Teachers are not allowed to have inhalers or epi pens in their classroom or pocket. By the time my daughter’s meds could be gotten from the front office, it may be too late for her. Not why we homeschool, but a nice benefit.

    Convenient for the parent(s): Not being beholden to anyone else’s schedule is amazing.

    Chosen for religious reasons: Partly, but not the way you might think. We are secular and our local, Southern, public schools are insanely religious. We don’t want our kids surrounded by that.

    Has equipment (e.g. science labs): Can get what we want/need. Not a concern.

    Pace/level is tailored to suit student: Already addressed.

    Instructor subject knowledge in more areas: Masters and certified to grade 8. May join an online school for high school science and math.

    Less risk of bullying or negative influences: Definitely

    It was closest to home or only choice:

    Prepares best for college/real world: My kids spend their days in the real world, never the artificial setting of a school.

    1. Michael Schmid

      Thank you so much for the detailed and extremely helpful response, Leyla. That’s one of the best defense (probably not the right word) of home schooling descriptions I’ve seen. We’re still working on our decision, and the input from thoughtful people like you really helps!

  24. Heath Capps

    Awesome topic. As a soon-to-be Dad to twin girls, I am almost dreading this decision one day! I am a public school product, but have my reservations, sadly, about public schooling (and I work in public schools). I do fear the largeness of it all, and a getting lost in the shuffle–if that’s possible with twins. I also see the other side; if my girls are taught (spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically, academically) by their Mom and myself at home, then school will just be auxiliary. That is my goal, anyway. Only time will tell if I am in for a heavy dose of humility.

    I think every student/child is different. What works for one won’t always work for another. I’ve worked with teenage boys who thrived in a boarding school setting. I worked with others who loathed it. Depends…on so much, not just the student. Depends on the family as well. I’d say you know your kids better than anyone else!

    1. Michael Schmid

      I also see the other side; if my girls are taught (spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically, academically) by their Mom and myself at home, then school will just be auxiliary. That is my goal, anyway. Only time will tell if I am in for a heavy dose of humility.

      That makes a lot of sense (on paper at least, as you hint). The fact you are worrying about it now suggests your twins will be in good (albeit very sleepy soon) hands, Heath. Your last piece of advice about every situation, child and school being different, is well taken. We can only do the best we can?

  25. Katie

    Hello, this is Katie from Teacher to the Core and wifey of Writing Pad Dad. Thank you for visiting and following my blog today.

    I think you have to weigh out your options and decide which one makes the most sense long term. You have to weight out your values too. For example, if you value family trips and making memories (which can be costly) will you be able to afford to do anything fun after you pay for Private school? Draining every penny to pay for school now may mean you will not have money to go on family adventures together, save, or pay for college later.

    What do you want the school to do for you? If you are looking for the school to reinforce you religious beliefs then public school is not going to meet that need.

    Is your neighborhood public school safe with thoughtful, energetic, knowledgeable, and approachable teachers?

    Let’s talk about safe really quickly. Don’t be surprised, with the recent Sandy Hook events, if campuses feel more secure than ever. This does not mean that the school is unsafe. The opposite is true. The school takes your child’s safety seriously. You may not be able to waltz on campus and pop into the classroom. You may even be asked to be fingerprinted before volunteering on an ongoing basis. Would you want a registered sex offender reading with your child every Tuesday? Please don’t take these measures as being unwelcoming. It is just a matter of loving the kids so much that we need to know and anticipate the arrival of the people within our gates.

    Does your child need more from a school than what you can reasonably ask of it? Choosing a school that has the services you need or want is important. Every school has limitations.

    Does your school facility offer before of after school care if you are in need of it?

    How large will your child’s class size be?

    When you go to sleep at night, what does your gut tell you?

    These are just a few of the topics my husband and I discussed. We are both public school teachers. Our son is in private kinder this for a variety of reasons. We arm wrestle over who gets to have him on their campus for first grade. Justin’s campus and mine are very different. Both shine in different ways. We wish we could merge them into one school, thus our conversation continues… Where will our kinderboy go next year?

    Katie
    Teacher to the Core Blog

    1. Michael Schmid

      Hi, Katie. Such a pleasure to have you drop by my site. What SUPER advice you’ve provided. Some of the problem for us is not knowing for certain what options will be open to us when it comes to public schools. The elementary school that’s closest is not one I’d want our little girl to attend. There are two other public options (one via very limited lottery), but if we can’t get into one of them, then private or homeschooling may prove necessary. I’m going to share your thoughts with my wife. Thank you SO MUCH, Katie!

  26. Lisa

    I am so interested in reading all of the responses you have received. Over the past few months, I have really struggled with some of the same ideas. My kids, however, are a bit older. My son is finishing fourth grade and my daughter is finishing first. To top it all off, my husband and I are both public school teachers (though not in our local school district).

    Honestly, the elementary school in our neighborhood is staffed by an incredible, dedicated, and loving staff. That’s part of what makes my decision so difficult. It seems like a no-brainer, right? I wish it were so.

    First, my son will be moving to middle school next year. The class sizes get much larger, the teachers feel so much more pressure from “the test”, and the kids become more antagonizing. I feel like students are no longer nurtured as much as they are pushed into the system. In a room with 30-something kids, you just can’t individualize learning. I know my kids will get a decent education, but I feel like they could be offered so much more in a different environment. This is not to slam the public schools, but a reality when resources are limited and class sizes are high.

    Then we get to my daughter. She entered kindergarten reading chapter books on her own. She was (and is) years ahead of her class academically. I’m not trying to brag, she just loves to learn. But she struggles with anxiety in a big way. She cries when she has to go to school about half the time. (It is getting better.) And she is starting to say she hates school because they do too much learning. I know the teacher is trying to differentiate to meet her needs, but she also has kids are are below the norm as well. She is spending most of the day bored out of her mind, which adds to the anxiety issues.

    Like I said, the staff at the elementary school is phenomenal. I believe they are doing everything they can to meet the needs of my children. If and when I decide to pull my children out of the public schools, it will not be due to a lack of faith in them. Rather, it will be a decision based on meeting the needs of my individual children.

    Yet another consideration, at least in our situation, is money. We cannot afford a private school with smaller class sizes. Plus, being in the suburbs, we’d have to find a school within a reasonable distance. Unfortunately, neither of us can afford to stay home.

    So, how would we do it? I am looking to change careers so that I could telecommute at least part of the time. We are also quite lucky enough to have my mom nearby. More than likely, our schooling would not follow the normal M-F, 9-3 type schedule. I would provide the schooling on telecommute days, weekends, and evenings. My mom would follow up with “seat-work” activities and on-going projects (sports, clubs, etc).

    But all of that would be a major shift for us, and I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. There are so many other factors to work through, but I bet you have the same things running through your mind.

    I’ll be interested to hear what you decide! :)

    1. Michael Schmid

      Wow, Lisa. It sounds like you are struggling with similar issues (and others) to us. I fully understand the money aspect of the private school option, as well as the limited choices in some areas. Your comments concerning your daughter hit home, as well. All modesty aside, ours is also crazy smart, and I worry about her being far ahead of her peers and bored. That said, I also worry that with a birthday right after the grade cut off, she’ll be one of the youngest in her class… and will her focus and maturity level be adequate. We’re narrowing our choices, and in some cases may not be able to know until we find out school lottery (not the money kind) results after camping in a line (literally) for days to get into a much better elementary school than the default one for our area. Best of luck to you. Keep us posted!

  27. Kayla

    Everyone out there is going to give you a different opinion on this and its something that has been debated for a long time (the public or private element anyhow), you have added a third option into the mix which is homeschooling and doing that probably draws he argument out further.

    I would personally say homeschooling wins hands down in terms of pure education but in terms of interaction you might suffer.

    1. Michael Schmid

      Yeah, it’s a tough choice. I know what we believe we want to do, but some of it is not going to be in our hands. That is to say, luck may pay a bit of a role in getting into the good public school options near us. Thanks for dropping by, Kayla.

  28. Lauren

    For me the choice was easy. I am fortunate to be able to teach first grade at a great public school. I am happy with the education provided by the school system (and would still be even if I didn’t teach there). Thankfully, my children can attend this school system and I can live “out of district”. This particular city has high property taxes and expensive housing. I understand that for you this isn’t an option.
    If I wasn’t a teacher, I would highly consider moving to be able to provide the best education for my children. It’s a sacrifice but still worth it.
    All schools are not equal. Take a tour, read reviews, talk to people in the area… It won’t take long to find the best fit for you and your daughter. I don’t have anything negative to say about private school, except you shouldn’t have to pay tuition to find a good school. All teachers are trained equally (with college degrees). It comes down to the beliefs and structure of each school district. Some are just better than others.
    A little teacher secret… Great children are born from great parents, not great schools :)

    1. Michael Schmid

      All schools are not equal. Take a tour, read reviews, talk to people in the area… It won’t take long to find the best fit for you and your daughter. I don’t have anything negative to say about private school, except you shouldn’t have to pay tuition to find a good school. All teachers are trained equally (with college degrees). It comes down to the beliefs and structure of each school district. Some are just better than others.

      Hi Lauren. Thank you so much for your advice! Love that last little bit of teacher wisdom at the end. :)

  29. Julie

    I NEVER thought I would chose homeschooling for my kids but I do not regret it. The trick is finding a really amazing homeschooling community in your area!

    Here’s our story: http://goo.gl/QJDTA0

    At the end of the day it is a 100% personal decision. Follow your heart. Best of luck!

    1. Michael Schmid

      Love your post, Julie. I’m not sure I’d have included the photo of Ryan Gosling as you built your case for homeschooling, though. 😉 Yeah, I understand the impression some have of people who home-school, and it’s largely unfair. Really appreciate you sharing your experience with others. As you say, it’s a personal decision and we have to do what’s right for our kids. Since writing this post we actually sold our house and moved so our daughter could attend a MUCH better school. It’s public, and for now it’s working for us, but we’ll certainly keep our options open. Thanks so much for your comment, Julie!

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