Throughout Lukas' first 4 years Mrs. LIAYF and I consistently held firm with a certain mantra.
Despite statistics indicating that approximately 40% of Seattle families opt to send their children to private schools over a vastly less expensive public option, we weren't buying it. "We went to public school and turned out just fine" we would tell anyone who broached the subject. And "We're not even considering private school as an option" we told not only friends and family, but each other often when we thought about the choice we would have to make someday far in the future regarding where Lukas would go to kindergarten and beyond.
We honestly considered public school as our one and only choice. End of story.
But, and I'm sure you've gathered this by now, a funny thing happened along our path to loading Lukas onto a bus bound for the neighborhood elementary. As he entered Pre-K we started taking a more thoughtful look at the choices that were out there, and began to educate ourselves about the quality, cost, and philosophies of those different options.
While Mrs. LIAYF was busy checking private school application deadlines (many of which are due by mid-January), we scheduled some tours and attended some open houses at some very nice schools. Schools where, personally, I was AMAZED at the individualized and challenging lesson plans for kids starting in kindergarten.
These were schools with top-notch facilities, small class sizes, enthusiastic and engaged teachers, and caring and involved parents. Schools where the 3rd and 4th graders were addressing the large tour groups and giving presentations, the likes of which even to this day would make my knees buckle more than a bit, with confidence and ease. In short, it was clear to us that for most of these private schools, the kids who attended were getting a fantastic education. And they made us want very much to send our son there.
This is not to say Lukas wouldn't get a decent education at his local public school - which is one of the better public schools in Seattle. However, we have yet to tour it or even talk to the Kindergarten teachers. That's because tours in our public schools aren't allowed until late February, long after applications are due at the private schools. So basically, to even consider these private schools we have to get those apps in now, at up to $100 a pop.
What we do know about our Seattle public option, however, is that the class sizes are going to be huge, up to a 26 or 27 to 1 teacher to student ratio in Kindergarten with no teachers aides (Washington has the 3rd largest ratio in the country), and the schools are bringing in portables to handle the extra kids. This, while we would also have to pay for the 2nd 1/2 day of Kindergarten.
I mentioned to a neighbor who has a child at our neighborhood school what we had heard mentioned regarding classes that size. The kids in the middle get very little attention, while the needy kids and the squeaky wheels are focused on. That's about sums it up, she indicated.
But that has only made our choice more difficult. As you have probably already know, these private schools don't come cheap. Yes, Mrs. LIAYF and I are both professionals making a decent living wage and we are extremely lucky to even be able to consider private school, but with all our other obligations, and the hope of another addition soon to our family, it would be extremely difficult to swing yearly tuition at the kindergarten level that rivals that of many colleges. Sure, we will apply for any tuition assistance each school has to offer, though we are generally unsure what if any we would qualify for.
But the real question isn't "Can we afford it?" It's "Can we afford not to if we can at all find a way to make it work?" Lukas is a bright, funny, and extremely social boy with loads of potential. We love him to death and want the very best for him. But the questions still remain. With some of the extra savings from choosing a public school (even though we would be paying for full day vs half day public kindergarten) could we supplement with after school classes, trips, technology, etc... which would give just as good an overall experience? Well, we're really not sure.
In the end our choice will most likely come down to where he gets admitted (did I mention these private schools are highly competitive for available spots?), how close that school is to where Mrs. LIAYF and I work, and how much, if any, tuition assistance is available.
If the combination is favorable, and the stars align just right, next year we may be eating at home much more often, staycationing in our beautiful city, brewing a lot more coffee rather than hitting the corner Starbucks, as well as any other belt tightening measures we haven't already employed. If not, we will enroll him in his public school and be active and involved parents there instead. We'll know more in the coming months.
How about you readers. If you had to tighten your belts considerably to send your kids to private school and a better education, would you opt to? What other considerations which I haven't mentioned here, would you have to consider? Thanks for any feedback you can give.
Photo credit: workingfamiliesparty.org