When some friends and neighbors realize that we are planning to send our kids to public school, horrified and comical looks creep over their faces. They are clearly appalled by our decision but just too polite to say anything. However, for us, it is a very important decision. We believe that the right public school is as good as most private schools out there and as parents, it is of course our ultimate choice where we send our kids to school.
Last summer, a neighbor and I were having a pleasant chat at the park while our kids were playing. She has two girls ages 8 and 10 who attend our neighborhood private school. She waxed eloquently about the benefits of said school (which I do not dispute), and assumed I was going to send my kids there too.
When I casually replied that I was planning on sending my son and my daughter to the local public school, she went red in the face and started sputtering. She informed me that everyone in our part of the neighborhood sends their kids to the private school. I quite nicely said that I understand, but it’s important to us that we support the public school system. After all, I went to public school, and my husband went to public school and we turned out really well. I have a graduate school education from University of Toronto and my husband is a cutting edge Mechanical Engineer.
If you really look at this with a critical eye, no matter how much you spend for an elementary, middle and high school education, most kids with the right supports in place end up at the exact same colleges and universities in Canada. So why bother breaking the bank to give your kids a leg up when they end up at the same post secondary schools anyway!
For me, it’s about choice. At this point in our lives, my husband and I are choosing to send our kids to public school. We feel like it is our right to make that decision and if our situation was different or if we lived in another part of the world, that would inform our decision making process and we might have come out of this with a different conclusion. Yet, at this juncture, we feel like we can actually do some good and help advocate for better resources within the public educational system.
There are many choices within our public schools. Our kids may to go to French immersion, art and music based schools, specialized schools for technology or environmental studies, just to name a few. There are so many options for parents out there -- and if academics are a non-negotiable criterion, then comb through the public school lists in your area based on their math and literacy scores (EQAO). You even have the choice to support the system by volunteering at your school of choice through school council, in the classroom, or through community liaison groups.
In addition, it is my belief that we cannot depend on the school to provide all of our children’s teaching. We need to supplement our kid’s education with extracurricular activities that help to round them out. For example, we’re planning on putting our kids into classical music lessons, team sports, swimming, summer camping, March break science camps and anything else their little hearts desire (that they’re willing to stick to, of course).
Public school teachers are doing the best they can with the resources they are given. Parents who are supportive of the public school system need to join with teachers and school administrators to advocate for school reform. We need to step up, enroll kids in public school, be a part of the system and try to improve things from within.
I realize that our opinion is not quite the popular rhetoric in my neighborhood. So be it. I’ve never been a fan of conformity. So the next time I’m asked on the playground or at a play-date if we are going to be sending our kids to our local private school, my answer will still be a strong and resounding "no." There’s nothing wrong with private school, but we have decided that it is important for us to advocate and champion the public school in our area, both for our kids and the rest of their cohort. After all, if we abandon ship along with the other parents in our neighborhood the local school will struggle even more, and we refuse to be culprits to that travesty.
How did you decide where to send your kids to school? Was it the right decision for your family and what has been your experience so far?
Photo Credit: elipousson.
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