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Are Public Schools Good Enough For Your Kids?

Public school: for something so wholesome, it sure does stir up a lot of controversy. There are constantly battles being waged about what to teach, how to teach it and how much money is needed to do it right. Everyone has an opinion, whether they have kids or not.

For parents, there’s a much more immediate concern that comes up when considering public schools: will you send your kids there? The choice between public, private and homeschooling is one a lot of parents wrestle with. Admittedly, it’s a privileged choice: most parents don’t have the resources or time to homeschool their kids, or the disposable income for private school.

For those lucky enough to be faced with a decision, deciding what to do about your child’s schooling can be agonizing. It was for Stella McCartney and her family.

Stella McCartney’s husband has just caused a stir in the British press saying he would have loved to send their three kids to public schools, but the schools in the area just aren’t good enough. Instead, their three young children attend local private schools in London.

The headmaster of their district’s public school was enraged by the comments, saying his school is rated as “outstanding” and provides a great education for any child.

Who’s right? It does seem pretty low of McCartney and her family to slag on public schools when they have so much money and privilege. They really can send their children to any school they want. On the other hand, they may be right that private school is the best choice for their kids. Are they buying a better option with the private schools? Probably.

I don’t know what it’s like in London, but the sad fact is that where I live, private schools are the way to go if you can swing the cost. You get smaller classes, more teachers, a more flexible and holistic curriculum and a tight-knit community of highly involved parents. The private schools around here don’t have to teach to the test the way public schools do, which leaves them time to teach creatively and at the children’s pace.

It’s probably clear by now that I’m no great fan of public schools. I’m well aware that there are great public schools out there. The one in my neighborhood is reputed to be excellent. I have friends who are public school crusaders, who send their children to public schools in the hopes of changing them for the better from the inside. Not me. I want better public schools, and I’m happy to pay my local taxes to fund them. I don’t think the schools we have are adequate, though, and I’m not eager to throw my kids into a not-great school just to prove a point.

So for now, I pay a crazy percentage of our annual income in school tuition, and my little darlings go to a small private school. It’s the school that works best for our family, and I feel incredibly grateful that I have the privilege to send my kids there. We don’t have the bank account of a Beatle’s heiress; there are a lot of sacrifices involved. But I think they’re worth it.

Do your kids go to private or public school, or homeschool? Was it a tough decision?

Photo: Elizabeth Albert

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