Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mommy Angst: Cut-Throat Competition for Private School Acceptance

Our kids go to the cutest, private school. O-k, I've said it and you, reader, are either cringing that I used the word "private" or you have private school in your background.

My kids did not end up at an "elitist" institution out of breeding. My husband and I went to public schools and I think we turned out pretty o-k. We kind of ended up at private school by accident. How does one make a ca trillion dollar mistake such as this? Read on...

Our first born, John, is an early September birthday boy. If you are a parent of a September boy, you know there is always one question before they enter kindergarten, "Do you send them early, or do you hold them back?"

If you are new to this debate, at the heart of it, a lot of people believe that you should give a child the "gift of time." This especially holds true for boys. I'm a Montessori preschool teacher, and when it came time for our son's third year of preschool, it was considered his "kindergarten year."

My husband and I, just figured that John would enter the public school kindergarten class with his "gift of time." He would be 6, and that would be around the age of most of the boys in his class. We went to tour the public school kindergarten and uh oh.

The tour guide said that they like the kindergartners to enter school being able to write their name and that most kids are reading by the time they enter 1st grade. John was over at Montessori school probably reading chapter books as we took our tour. This wasn't going to work out so well.

We toured 1st grade. The class sizes were small, but there were 600 kids on recess that border a public park. All we could picture was our little baby in that big class. He was quiet and shy and sweet and he was going to get lost!

Meanwhile, our Montessori teacher called us in for a conference. She told us if John entered kindergarten, it was going to be a disaster. Basically, we were told there was no way John could do kindergarten again.

She recommended that we tour a number of small private schools. We started touring, and the rest is history. We chose the sweetest school that was a cross between Montessori and traditional school. It actually was nick named the "Hippie School" a long time ago.

This was not a fancy school with a parking lot full of fancy cars. Being in Northern California, it had an eensy weensy celebrity attendance, but for the most part, you wouldn't know it was a private school, until you got the bill.

There is one class for each grade. Each class has a team of teachers, usually one male and one female. Every teacher at the school knows you and knows your kid. There is music and art and a wonderful projects lab where the kids use saws, hammers and drills. It has been a lovely place for our now 8th grader to grow and learn.

However, this school ends at 8th grade. Now, we are being catapulted out of our comfort zone and into the land of high school. Public school is large and excellent and facing big budget cuts. Private school is uber competitive and exceedingly expensive and excellent--it faces no budget crisis as the prices just keep going up.

Now we are on that age old question again, what do we do? Do we sell the farm, and maybe a couple of siblings to afford an excellent secondary education? The competition is so fierce for so few spots, you can't go anywhere around 8th grade parents from our school and not have the "High School Conversation."

Where did you apply? Do you think you'll get in? How many recommendations? Test scores? How many times did you child take the SSAT? Did you take the SSAT courses? How was the interview? What did your child write their essay about? Grades?

Calgon! Take me away! We will get letters from the schools about acceptances March 18th. Until then, oh boy. There is tension among the best of friends. There is parental angst over who will get the coveted one or two spots at the top schools.

Then the rumors fly right alongside the circus. If you give more money, you have a better chance. If you have this zip code, you have a better chance. If you play such and such sport you have a better chance. If you have siblings you have a better chance. If you're famous, if you're friends with so and so, if, if, if...

If this is high school, we are going to need Valium to get through the college application process.


Christina said...

Wow... Things sure have changed from when I was in school.

Staci said...

I am facing this decision as we speak with Anthony.... public or private? Kindy or wait?! I do not LOVE a single private school in our area and public school test scores in our district frighten me.... I just don't know what to do! Good luck with your decision!

Deb said...

I stopped replying for a while, because I wondered who really ever checked back to read...but I wanted to let people know that I was reading and listening.

Christina: No kidding, I never even worked this hard for college applications. No wonder kids today are so stressed. Luckily we are blessed with a school that minimizes stress. The kids are in better shape than the parents at this point.

Staci: In the old days, before motherhood, I was a preschool teacher. Talk to other parents at the schools. The school usually has a list of parents for you to call. Ask them what they like about the school and what they could change. At least if you explore these points with parents that have children at the school, that will give you a little more insight. Hope that helps.