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If you sent your kid to school, and you had choices, what things factored in.


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For the purpose of this thread JAWM that my youngest kid needs to go to school next year.  It's possible that that will change, and I'll come back and tell everyone we've figured out homeschooling, but that would require some financial stuff to happen that I'd rather not go into detail about. So for the purpose of this thread, assume that we've got two parents working outside the house, and no childcare, and a very busy very extroverted kid who is not well suited to staying home alone.  

We are at the point where we're down to two schools for my rising 6th grader.  One is the small, 1 class per grade, Catholic school where he went from PS through the middle of fourth.  He was very well loved there, and had lots of friends, but was never excited by anything other than recess, and wasn't particularly challenged.  The other option is a large public middle school, 800 kids, bigger class sizes, but he'd have more choice of classes, and could take high school level Spanish, and other interesting electives.  He's qualified for gifted sections for math and humanities.  The math class would put him on track to be a year, or possibly 2 ahead of the track he'd be on at the Catholic school.

There's a good chance covid will make the decision for us.  If numbers are bad, then it seems obvious that 200 is safer than 800, and being with the same class all day is safer than changing classes.   So, even if we decide that public is our first choice, we're going to put a deposit down on the Catholic school.  If it's clear that we're moving towards herd immunity when the rest of the tuition comes due, we will consider giving up the deposit.  

But I'd still like to figure out which would would be our first choice, if we decide that both are safe.  I know lots of people here have sent their kids to school, and chosen both big public and small privates, so I'd love to hear how you made that decision. 

Both schools are less than a mile away so he could walk, and the hours are similar.  Both have wonderful racial diversity, although the public school offers more socio-economic diversity.  Financially, we can make either work.  

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I would lean toward the public school, because I don't think it's great to go for years with no academic challenges. However, at that age, if they were both acceptable options, I would probably let him decide. 

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He had a lot of issues - I simply didn't have the time or mental or physical energy to do both schooling with him, and figure out his medical/autism stuff.  I couldn't do both.  The first few years of school were better because he was in an adult intense program (1 adult per 2 students).  it wasn't sustainable, and other things were getting more complex.  Even teachers got his "giving the wrong answer is fun". . . .  one school pscyh rolled her eyes at the fact her assessment was worthless because of how uncooperative he was, and she'd had to be extra creative to get an answer.  they brought in specialists to try and assess him - at least they realized he was snowing them.  This kid would tell the locker room attendant at swim lessons he was someone else when I'd ask them to send him out.

 

SWB was out here for something a few years ago, and somehow the subject came up.  She has one that in retrospect, she thinks school would have been a better fit.

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I would let him pick. My parents tried to send me to a small Christian school when I was in junior high. I ended up hating it. No opportunity at all. Plus, if finances are why you are sending child back to school, then the big public school might be the more affordable option.

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I might send my daughter this fall. This is not because I think any other school could provide her a better education or social life. It is because at home, I have lost my oomph and she is so needy and messy and tries to avoid all school work.  When I say let’s all take a half hour to just go sit and read, she won’t do that. Whenever we go to park day she completely expects to see the same is at kids the very next day and it’s frustrating because it’s not the same exact people every day. I don’t really know for sure what I’m going to do. Maybe next year when we’re not shut down by Covid, they’ll be enough other opportunities that I don’t feel like I have to send her to school.  So no decision has been made yet.

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We live in a medium-ish town. There is one private school, and the big public high school (800-900, I think). The private school is not an option for us financially, and I don't think a good match for ds as far as his interests. Homeschooling became not-an-option about 8th grade for this particular ds. So public school it is. Last spring, from spring break on, school was virtual. Last fall, students were given a choice of virtual or in-person. Ds chose virtual, but it did not work for him, and after a few weeks, he asked the counselor if he could come back on campus. He is very relational, and needed those relationships with his teachers in order to do well. The students are supposed to be masked and other precautions are taken as well, but I don't know how well those things are enforced. There has been little apparent spread in the school, and when there are cases, the classes that student/teacher is in quarantine. It has seemed to work surprisingly well. If you feel both are safe, I, personally, would go with the larger school so that your ds is challenged and has more educational options. Even though there are options for our ds that he is taking advantage of, he is not very interested in school. It just doesn't challenge him where his interests lie. It is not a fun thing to see your young person lose the sparks of interest in learning. 😕 I miss the days when he was little and still happy homeschooling.

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I’d let him pick but I’d personally be rooting for the public school. 
 

I think once all the high risk members of your family are vaccinated there is very little risk for him at the school where he is more likely to thrive. 

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I would look at how both the Public and Catholic school handle virtual classes to make a decision. Just as a backup in case there is a necessity. 

We have a very good ISD. We bought a house based on that when DS was a baby and it has worked out spectacularly. But I never realized how good they were until the Pandemic. What I have seen during this pandemic is the value of a good school district and it is  their ability to adapt and handle things. When we were plunged into the whole virtual school thing in March of 2020 it was a royal mess. So much so we were desperate, decided to look into homeschool as an option and that is why I came on this board. Both the school and students and consequently parents were scrambling. But we did see a real change as they grasped the situation and made changes to make it better in the short term. We somehow made it till May 2020. 

What impressed me most was how they prepared for the school year 2021-2022. They took an entire month to prepare after making parents decide whether they would do Virtual academy or in person. The difference when they prepared is startling. It does not take the place of school in person of course, but Virtual academy is working. More than 65% when I last checked were in Virtual Academy and this after giving certain time periods where students can transition to Virtual Academy or In Person for the next 9 weeks. 

DH and I would be the first to pull out our kid and homeschool in case we were not satisfied. So just find out how they handled classes during the pandemic. Call me paranoid, but after that if we need to suddenly pivot I want a school that will handle it with minimum disruption. I was prepared to take a full year off from working PT if need be if DS needed me. I am working PT now and one of the reasons is the Virtual academy working well. It is not without hiccups but on the whole, it works. 

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I would choose based on where I think he would be more comfortable socially and have a better chance of making friends.

Most likely in this case that would incline me towards the Catholic school if he already has friends there.

Academics to me are secondary to emotional and social health. Of course, it is possible for academics to play a role in social and emotional health.

Most of my children have attended school at one point or another; academics did play a meaningful role when I sent some of them to a foreign language immersion school.

I withdrew them for social and emotional reasons.

Edited by maize
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34 minutes ago, Katy said:

I’d let him pick but I’d personally be rooting for the public school. 
 

I think once all the high risk members of your family are vaccinated there is very little risk for him at the school where he is more likely to thrive. 

I guess I’m not at all sure where he’s more likely to thrive.  I feel like he thrived at the Catholic school until about midway through third grade, when he was really struggling with a new sibling and that spilled over to every part of his life. But  in the year between that and when I pulled him, I was really glad he was there in a small warm community that wrapped itself around my boys in a really amazing way.

Plus, he’s kind of a handful and the no nonsense but loving approach at Catholic worked for him.  Who knows if public will suit as well.

I do worry that he’s not challenged, but after all these years of not being challenged he tests really high so maybe he’s challenging himself?  

I am kind of playing devil’s advocate here.  I feel like if I knew where he’d be happier or more engaged, I’d pick that.  

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22 minutes ago, maize said:

I would choose based on where I think he would be more comfortable socially and have a better chance of making friends.

Most likely in this case that would incline me towards the Catholic school if he already has friends there.

Academics to me are secondary to emotional and social health. Of course, it is possible for academics to play a role in social and emotional health.

Most of my children have attended school at one point or another; academics did play a meaningful role when I sent some of them to a foreign language immersion school.

I withdrew them for social and emotional reasons.

I agree 100% that social emotional comes first, especially for my kids who have had a lot of stress.

But, he has friends at both.  He’d have more at Catholic, but he knows kids at public from the neighborhood, and sports, and scouts, and the pool.  When there isn’t covid he’s a busy kid and makes friends easily.

 

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28 minutes ago, Dreamergal said:

I would look at how both the Public and Catholic school handle virtual classes to make a decision. Just as a backup in case there is a necessity. 

We have a very good ISD. We bought a house based on that when DS was a baby and it has worked out spectacularly. But I never realized how good they were until the Pandemic. What I have seen during this pandemic is the value of a good school district and it is  their ability to adapt and handle things. When we were plunged into the whole virtual school thing in March of 2020 it was a royal mess. So much so we were desperate, decided to look into homeschool as an option and that is why I came on this board. Both the school and students and consequently parents were scrambling. But we did see a real change as they grasped the situation and made changes to make it better in the short term. We somehow made it till May 2020. 

What impressed me most was how they prepared for the school year 2021-2022. They took an entire month to prepare after making parents decide whether they would do Virtual academy or in person. The difference when they prepared is startling. It does not take the place of school in person of course, but Virtual academy is working. More than 65% when I last checked were in Virtual Academy and this after giving certain time periods where students can transition to Virtual Academy or In Person for the next 9 weeks. 

DH and I would be the first to pull out our kid and homeschool in case we were not satisfied. So just find out how they handled classes during the pandemic. Call me paranoid, but after that if we need to suddenly pivot I want a school that will handle it with minimum disruption. I was prepared to take a full year off from working PT if need be if DS needed me. I am working PT now and one of the reasons is the Virtual academy working well. It is not without hiccups but on the whole, it works. 

The Catholic school has been open all year, and the public school is just starting to reopen. The public is better at virtual now due to lots of practice.  

I can’t really imagine a situation where the Catholic would be closed long term while my school which is the most cautious of the 3 is open.  If he and I are both home, I’d probably homeschool rather than virtual school, because homeschool has worked well.  

But honestly, if we are at the point where there’s a real chance of another lockdown, then Catholic is safer so the choice would easy.  

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1 hour ago, Janeway said:

I would let him pick. My parents tried to send me to a small Christian school when I was in junior high. I ended up hating it. No opportunity at all. Plus, if finances are why you are sending child back to school, then the big public school might be the more affordable option.

Finances are a big issue for our family, DH and I have each missed more than 18/26 months of work.  But they aren’t a big factor here for complicated reasons I won’t go into.  Suffice to say that the financial implication of sending my kid to a very cheap school where he gets financial aid would be very different from the financial implication of me quitting my job to homeschool.

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Is it possible that the Catholic school has more options for middle schoolers than they had for earlier grades?

My kids' Lutheran school seems to do better in middle school, possibly because that is a time when a lot of kids just coast or get too distracted with social stuff to keep progressing.  So somehow, our school always seemed to have higher relative test scores during the middle school years than the earlier years.  I do think there are benefits of keeping that smaller community thing a little longer.

On the other hand, if you are leaning toward public high school, I think there are also benefits to getting your son into that system sooner rather than later.  My kids started high school at a disadvantage because most of the kids already "knew the ropes."

As far as the financial cost, I did pay through 8th grade, but tuition at the next level would have been similar to state college tuition.  At that cost, I'd rather save the money for actual college or grad school.

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1 minute ago, SKL said:

Is it possible that the Catholic school has more options for middle schoolers than they had for earlier grades?

Because his brother was there for sixth and seventh I know much more about the Catholic middle school than the public.

1 minute ago, SKL said:

My kids' Lutheran school seems to do better in middle school, possibly because that is a time when a lot of kids just coast or get too distracted with social stuff to keep progressing.  So somehow, our school always seemed to have higher relative test scores during the middle school years than the earlier years.  I do think there are benefits of keeping that smaller community thing a little longer.

For his brother it was an easy choice, because of that.  And when. Things got turned upside down for our family I was really glad he was there.  

You have a good point about smaller communities.

1 minute ago, SKL said:

On the other hand, if you are leaning toward public high school, I think there are also benefits to getting your son into that system sooner rather than later.  My kids started high school at a disadvantage because most of the kids already "knew the ropes."

As far as the financial cost, I did pay through 8th grade, but tuition at the next level would have been similar to state college tuition.  At that cost, I'd rather save the money for actual college or grad school.

Yeah, I am looking at small schools for his brother.  I’d love to have two options for each once we know more about covid.   The cheapest option for 9th is about 4 times the cost of this school.  

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Our oldest son asked to go to school in 8th grade. We sent him to the large public middle school where he already had friends. Based on his experience there, we decided to send him to a small private high school. While our district’s schools are ranked very highly, and seem to be well-liked by parents, we were not impressed with the constant screen time, student behavior and low academic expectations. Had we not had the experience with the public middle school, we probably would have sent him to our large public high school and would have been dissatisfied there.

The small private high school has had many benefits: they have been 5 days a week, in person all year. There have been some Covid cases, but not many. They are doing a great job with social distancing and masking. He is playing varsity basketball and football as a sophomore, whereas in the large public school, he likely would not have the same opportunity. The school is small enough that they know him well enough to know when he needs to be pushed to achieve more. There is a strong, supportive community and in these times when our church is not even open, it helps me to know that he has chapel at school twice a week and his teachers integrate our faith into their classes. 

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My kids moved from homeschool to small (compared to public) Catholic high schools, but they are well-challenged academically with IB programs and AP courses.  In your case, I would prioritize what he needs emotionally.  Would a familiar small environment be more calming and less stressful for him after the year or two he’s had?  Or would he prefer to delve into new challenges and would that be healthier for him at this point?  Only you guys can decide that.  
Is the school hard to get into numbers wise?  Because public schools seem more apt to shut down and go virtual, and the Catholic schools stay open.  If you choose public and they close, would the Catholic school have room to allow him to enroll mid year?
Which school has sports and activities and what is their covid related attitude towards them?  I would choose a school that seems comfortable with Covid and reasonable precautions,  before a school with fearful teachers or unions.  Our Catholic schools have been fully back to all sports and activities.  
 

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It depends on your child.  We lived in a very small town, and I was glad that when our kids began attending the very small public high school there part-time, they already knew the kids (since you know everyone in a small town!) and the transition was pretty easy.  It was almost like a private school in many ways.  

In hind site, as I've come to understand my children better as young adults, I think every single one of them would have been better off in a large public school where they would have been challenged more, had more opportunities, had a much larger pool of peers to choose as close friends, and so much more.  I don't think I would ever have known that at the time even if that had been an option, but I believe it would have made a significant and lasting positive influence on my kids.  

ETA:  I realize you're looking at a younger age group.  Will you have the opportunity to choose, again, which high school to go to after middle school?  Or is there a natural path from that middle school to a private Catholic high school?

Even then, it varies.  The private Catholic high school in my own home town would have been just an extension of Catholic middle school.  My dh's private Catholic high school, OTOH, was a super challenging, stimulating, positive experience, with tons of opportunities. 

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Both of my children went to private kindergarten.  It was a much smaller class, less worksheet, and sit-in-a-desk focused and was a shorter school day; all of those thigns were important to me at the time.  Then the both went to public elementary.  We wanted them to be around a variety of kids; DH and I were both products of public schools and thought we received good educations; we wanted them to go to school with kids in their neighborhood (most of the private schools where were were would pull kids from a 45-mile radius).  

DD went to an all girls, Catholic high school; she asked if she could because she did not think she would be challenged at the high school.  She knew she would have to give up on her dream of being in the marching band.  The private high school had reasonable tuition (it was going to cost almost as much for her to do a one-week band trip her freshman year as it did to pay an entire year of tuition at the private school) and an excellent education.  It did mean a bit of a drive, but was still reasonably close (the public high school was 1/2 block away and we had just done a major remodel thinking both of our kids would go to school there.

DH was a couple of weeks short of finishing fifth grade at the public school when we pulled him out to homeschool him.  We lived in a major city but in a school district with two elementary schools and only one middle school and one high school.  It was known for being a rich school but 1/3 of the students qualified for free lunches.  We were glad that there was diversity, thinking that the school represented a cross-section of society and was more like the one high school everyone in town goes to that I grew up with.  We found that in early elementary the diversity was good, but as the kids got older the divide became great; it was more like a wealthy school and a poorer school running parallel in the same building.  Students, activities, relationships, and opportunities were really greatly divided by socioeconomic class which we did not like.  We actually found the private school had a better mix of socioeconomic backgrounds that really interacted.  

 

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It sounds like both are good, but different choices. I wouldn’t necessarily assume that the smaller school overall is safer re: covid. I think a lot of that comes down to ventilation and HVAC filters, cleaning protocols, masking culture, and room configuration. 
 

We absolutely considered the overall family dynamics when deciding when to send kids to school and when to bring them home. At one point, even though the public school academics were weaker than what I could provide, overall it made sense to send the kid to school.

Best wishes.

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Just now, prairiewindmomma said:

It sounds like both are good, but different choices. I wouldn’t necessarily assume that the smaller school overall is safer re: covid. I think a lot of that comes down to ventilation and HVAC filters, cleaning protocols, masking culture, and room configuration. 
 

We absolutely considered the overall family dynamics when deciding when to send kids to school and when to bring them home. At one point, even though the public school academics were weaker than what I could provide, overall it made sense to send the kid to school.

Best wishes.

I think the smaller school is safer.  In the big public school, he'd be in 7 different classes, with kids who all had other classes, and rode in on different buses.  So each kid would be potentially carrying the virus from one class to another.  In the private school he'd be with the same group of kids all day, and there would be no buses.  Our public schools have said that masks are required, but also that there will be no discipline if a kid removes one. The private school will send a kid to virtual for the first mask violation.  The private school has windows that open in every room, I don't know about public, many of our public schools don't, but I've never been in that one.   I feel really confident that if covid is bad enough in the fall to drive the decision, private is the right decision.  If covid is way down, then I am on the fence.  

I don't know how the public school academics compare to what I could provide if I was homeschooling, but they're definitely better than what he'd do on his own with me at work, and Dad sleeping after a 10 hour shift.  I just don't think that's healthy for an 11 year old.  

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We allowed our oldest to choose.  His options were public junior high or one of two public charter schools.  He had lottery admissions to both charters.

Oldest ds opted for the college-prep STEM charter.  He thought this charter better matched his interests than the other charter.   He liked the academic focus.  He also liked that the school was much smaller than the public school and that since the school was for grades 7-12, he would not have to change schools for high school.    

Youngest ds went to public middle school for 6th grade.  We had entered his name in the lottery for a K-12 charter, but he was too far down on the waitlist for admission.  For 7th grade he had a choice, public junior high or the school his brother attended.  He chose to join his brother at the STEM school.    

Youngest was miserable about public school.  He went because we had no other realistic options.  Academically the school was a poor fit.  He was placed into the highest level classes offered, but found them too easy.  Because 6th and 7th grades were in different buildings, he could not be placed into higher level classes without a grade skip.  He is much happier at the STEM school.

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I would assume that by the time he goes to school, we'll have vaccinated most people, and our numbers will be much lower. So I wouldn't pick based on COVID. 

My sister went to a small private school, and there really are drawbacks to being in a small program with fewer choices. For example, she's now a classics major who wasn't able to take any Latin in school... 

So I'd vote for the public school. He sounds like a kid who isn't going to have huge social troubles either way, and I think being bored for years isn't great. 

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My kids made thier own decision every year.  DD22 chose something different every 2 years. Ds22 changed programs a couple of times. Every year, I would figure out what options they had, that I thought were

1. academically appropriate

2. affordable both financially and in time commitment. (ie couldn't require me to drive a hour each way)

3. socially appropriate

4. Cohesive the student's and my relationship. 

My kids were only in the same program a few times. Each child was given unique opportunities.

They have done: Public elementary school, religious small private school. religious larger private school, secular private school, public high school, parent led home school, home school hybrid with a few publicly funded homeschool classes, hybrid public/homeschool (attending classes in a public school), hybrid with no outside classes, college classes in high school, STEM charter within public high school.

Due to dd14's special needs, she goes to a therapeutic day school. . 

Edited by Tap
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Social and emotional will always win for me. I don’t really care if they have access to the highest level math class so much. But it sounds like either option in this scenario might be fine 🙂 

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16 hours ago, J-rap said:

ETA:  I realize you're looking at a younger age group.  Will you have the opportunity to choose, again, which high school to go to after middle school?  Or is there a natural path from that middle school to a private Catholic high school?

Even then, it varies.  The private Catholic high school in my own home town would have been just an extension of Catholic middle school.  My dh's private Catholic high school, OTOH, was a super challenging, stimulating, positive experience, with tons of opportunities. 

This was the first thought that popped into my head. Catholic for now, moving on to public high school. Completely speculative, of course.

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