In which my ideals crash into my wallet

private-vs-public-school1It has been a weird couple of days for me as a parent.  All four of my son’s grandparents, plus a couple of aunts and uncles, live in town with us.  We therefore have never really lacked for babysitting when we’ve needed it.  My wife announced to me on Thursday that she was declaring Saturday night to be Date Night, and that furthermore she’d signed our son up for a program that our day care runs where they provide free babysitting once or twice a month from four to nine– at no additional cost to parents.

I hated the idea.  Immediately.  Viscerally.  And I proceeded to spend the next several days at war with myself, because I also immediately realized that hating the idea was irrational as hell, and I don’t like being irrational.  But there were a whole bunch of things that I didn’t know about this, and therefore didn’t like at all.  Mainly: I didn’t know who the teachers were, or if there was any guarantee that they’d be people he knew, and I didn’t know if there would be any kids from his class there for him to play with.

Hated the idea.  And didn’t end up getting the guts to confess that to my wife until we were literally in the car on the way, at which point we hurriedly made arrangements to leave him with my mom and dad for the evening.

At some point, we need to start paying a babysitter from time to time– not because I don’t think family members can do the job, obviously, but I feel like the kid ought to get used to the idea of occasionally being around people he isn’t as used to.  Socialization is a good thing, right?  Right.

Today I’ve been thinking about school.  In some ways we’re lucky; we happen to be in the district of one of the best primary centers in the city, so his neighborhood school is going to be good.  But the more I learn about the effect that the Common Core is having on early childhood education, the less I want my son to have anything to do with it.  And we just had some old friends in town whose kids are a bit older than Kenny, and they’ve got their daughter in a Montessori school and they love the hell out of it.

I have always been of the vague opinion that Montessori was mostly voodoo, mind you– but I’m open to being wrong, and the people I know who have put their kids in Montessori schools all seem pretty happy with them.  I suspect my kid might be able to do well in a Montessori environment; that doesn’t need to mean that I think the model is scalable to large-scale urban schooling.

Problem is, if I’m thinking about going private– and if I’m talking about trying to avoid testing and Common Core, I’m talking about going private– there aren’t that many options in this town that aren’t religiously affiliated.  A Christian/Catholic school isn’t happening.  And of the schools I know about that aren’t religious, most of them are Montessori and the one I know of that isn’t is probably a thousand dollars a month– and that’s every month, not just the ones schools are in session.

My wife and I were talking through this a bit this morning, and it was slowly dawning on both of us that if we want to take this seriously we probably need to start getting moving on it soon, if not two years ago, and trying to figure out how much tuition we could reasonably afford before we start having to talk about tuition assistance from the schools.  Basically, we can afford what we’re currently paying for day care.  Much more than that is not going to be easy, but we’re paying a nice little nickel for day care, so that may end up getting us somewhere.

“We could always apply for tuition vouchers,” my wife says.  I’ll spare you the rant: tuition vouchers are another way the current resident of the Indiana governor’s mansion is trying to destroy public schools by bleeding us of all of our funding.  It would mean several thousand dollars in tuition assistance every year– but at the expense of the public school system, a school system that I’ve worked for for nearly my entire career (speaking generically, mind you; I did start at teaching at a private Catholic school but that was only because public schools wouldn’t hire me.)

I don’t want to do that, but it would save me a shitton of money, and might ensure a better education and thus a better future for my child.

I just have to buy into a system that I know for a fact to be evil, and that I know for a fact is destroying an institution that is critical for the future functioning of the kind of society I want to live in.

Ah, morals.

Fun, right?

12 thoughts on “In which my ideals crash into my wallet

  1. FromTheNorth

    That’s a tough one. My kids go to a private Montessori school here in Norway, and are very happy there. I initially had some guilt on that front since I am also a big advocate for public schools, but since the Nowegian government recently closed many of the district schools and funneled all the kids into one overcrowded school, I feel that putting my kids in the private school (which was opened because of the closing of the district schools) was necessary to easing the burden on the local public school. Oh, and I didn’t have to apply for funds–I essentially pay the equivalent of $100 per month for both kids, and the government automatically funds the private school based on how many kids are enrolled there. It is an efficient system. I am annoyed that they were so short-sighted as to close so many local schools. But that’s district politics, and that’s a whole other story. We joke about moving to Finland (which is a mere 2-hour drive away) where they have one of the best school systems in the world, but then we would all have to learn Finnish, and no one wants that.

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  3. A friend (in the UK) emailed to say how happy the children were in the independent school she’d been working in and how this was the ideal education. Sure, you exclude 90% of the population, you set an IQ cut off and you ensure your parents have lots of money and education well is easy. The problem is, the kids leaving these schools think the world is made up of similar people to them… except for a few dangerous others. They end up blinkered, not very streetwise and often lacking in compassion. The greatest influence in a child’s life (statistically speaking) remains their parents, though, as you well know, teachers can make an incredible difference to a child for good or ill. So my unsolicited (or come to think of it, since you blogged about it, my solicited) advice, is send a child to public school to meet the real world and reinforce their education like hell at home.

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  4. Public education is all that there is. Anything else is an experience that isolated the student in later years. Education is a multifaceted issue. There is what is taught in the school and what is taught at home. The teaching at home should offset/counter what is wrong with the public education. Remember back some decades when schools were simply the equivelant of about an 8th grade education. The idea that they should be more was poorly implemented and the only way to fix that is at home.

    We, as a species, are often noted to be a tool using species but I have met so many young adults that don’t know what tools are or how to use them. A responsible parent ensures their child learns in spite of the education they get… no matter where they get it.

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  5. Have you thought about home school? It’s not just for the stay-at-home crowd…there are tons of options for scheduling and curriculum and style with no worries about taking money from the public school system.

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    1. Think about it all the time, actually. I don’t think it would work with our family very well, mostly because the wife and I aren’t joiners and the boy would never see another kid ever again as long as he lived.

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  6. Classic rock and a hard place. The most frustrating part is trying to keep your morality consistent with your actions when they are challenged like this. In the immediate term, what can be done to improve the public schools as they are? I’m talking political organizing on a district level. It might not be the most immediate or satisfying option, but it does help stave off a more immediate crippling of the public education system.

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  7. You’ve got to do what’s best for your kid; not what’s best for society. Tried like hell to reform education, or rather 1 school. You can’t change the system. The only hope is implosion and rebuilding. In the meantime, put your kid first and society on down the list.

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