This is a guest article by Kiley Theiring. Kiley is a film student and freelance writer. In this article, she questions the value of private elementary school and reflects on her own experiences to offer suggestions to parents.
As a parent, you are interested in giving your child all the best opportunities that you can find. At the top of this list is your kids’ education. When you are considering saving for your child’s education, college and high school are the first priorities. But what about elementary school? To provide the best opportunities, many parents choose to send their children to a private elementary school.
At costs of at least $3,000 a year, is private elementary school really worth the money?
Why parents choose private school
Parents have many good reasons for sending their kids to private school, but often there are much cheaper alternatives. For example, my mother chose private school for me and my siblings mainly because of the rich extra-curricular programs like band and chess club. However, even after the multi-thousand dollar tuition, these things all cost extra. You could easily take those funds and look into a separate after-school program for an activity that interests your children. This way, your children will also get to interact with other kids their age that they otherwise would not see at school.
Many parents also choose private schools based on their religious affiliation. Unlike public schools, private elementary schools have a portion of the curriculum dedicated to the religion that they represent. Instead of opting for a private school to give your children a religious and moral foundation, attend your affiliated church, synagogue, or other house of worship regularly. You can get the same –- if not better — religious education without shelling out a four digit figure. Take some responsibility and start teaching your child about morality and ethics at home. Your kids look up to you and will inevitably learn from you, so set a good example.
“Isn’t the core curriculum important?”
Of course the basics are important, but are they $24,000 important? If you’re worried about your kids falling behind privately educated students, enroll them in advanced programs or hire a tutor. Either way, it will be cheaper than funding eight years of private school. With all the money you spend on private elementary school, you can afford a whole semester or an entire year of college, depending on where your kids go.
“I want my kids to be accepted at a private high school.”
If you’re considering putting your kids into a private high school, I would definitely recommend private elementary school — but only for the last two years. Private high school admissions offices usually only care about your child’s success in seventh and eighth grades. Your child’s extra-curricular activities and service hours are what make them stand out as applicants, and both of these can be improved on, even while they are in public school.
Private high schools are generally much harder to get into than private elementary schools, so I recommend enrollment for seventh and eighth grade. Even if your local public school’s curriculum lags behind the private schools nearby, the gap will likely be small enough that your child would have no trouble catching up if they enroll starting in seventh grade.
Was my pricey grade school education worthwhile?
In retrospect, probably not.
I’ve never set foot in a public school before, and my parents are in huge amounts of debt because of it. Although I am glad that my participation in service hours and membership in the school band helped me ease my way into a prestigious private high school, many of my extra-curricular activities were programs created by organizations outside of school.
I only played club sports and I completed many volunteer hours outside of the school campus. I can’t say that I got too much out of the material taught in the classes, either. In high school, private vs. public school definitely matters because there is such a wide array of optional classes offered. In elementary school, there is no standard “advanced” program, and even if there is it’s usually just working a grade above your own level.
Avoid private elementary school until the last few years. Private schools may be great institutions, but they will eat up your child’s college fund without any real long-lasting benefits. Remember that you are your child’s greatest teacher, so think about what you can teach them at home before you enroll them in an expensive school.
Flexo’s thoughts: Not every private school is excellent, and not every public school is wanting. In my experience, I’ve seen more and a wider variety of extra-curricular activities offered at public schools than private schools. From a student’s perspective, the right attitude and appreciation for learning can lead to success regardless of the school, public or private.
Because private school is a large financial commitment for the parents, those parents would do their own finances a favor by carefully evaluating the local educational options and recognizing the educational needs of their children before choosing a school.
What are your thoughts on private elementary school?
Updated July 24, 2011 and originally published July 22, 2011.