(Continuing the topic of choosing education for your kids; deciding factors).
Once you have your options before you, count the beans. Which of them are affordable for you? Don’t think that public ed. comes free. Oh no, you will pay! And if somehow you will not pay, you will sell gift wrap, gourmet chocolates, and all sorts of knick-knacks to make up the difference. Public school is cheaper, but it is by no means cheap. You should also know that the further your children go in public school, the more they will pay as their activities increase. This is especially true if your child is athletic or artistic. As government budgets become more strapped fees for extra-curricular activities grow higher and higher. It is not unusual for a public school cheer leader or football player’s family to throw in $500 or $1000 just so their child can be on the team.
Homeschool and private school come with some sticker shock as well. If you homeschool, you will probably lay out a few grand just to begin. However, there are some incredibly thrifty homeschool moms who cut coupons and create shampoo out of peanut butter who can show you how to get radical and cheap. Thriftiness is something I find inherit in the homeschool movement and it is a unique art form all its own. My former church actually hosted a homeschool bookstore exchange. Those involved demonstrated a very Acts 4 and 6 type of common sharing that made education possible for other families. It was incredible to watch. There are probably others who can speak more to the coops and creative solutions than I and I would invite your comments.
The greatest sticker shock is no doubt to be had in the private school. The private school sales pitch can at times seem like a spill for the timeshare condo. They show you all the wonderful things that can be yours and then sit you down with a very persuasive fellow who can change your perspective on spending tons of money on their product and never having the necessary finances to go on vacation again.
I will talk about this under the deciding factor of freedom, but with the sticker shock does come a great deal of freedom. Private schools are not under the same constraints as government funded schools. Without government support, funding must come from somewhere, and you may weigh the facts and find the price well worth it. With a quality private school there is a greater likelihood you get what you pay for.
Well run private schools are also good about finding options for families. Truth be told, most students in the school probably don’t pay the top line sticker price. There are scholarships, grants, and private subsidies that make private education affordable. However, every family is expected to make some sacrifice. You may not pay equal price, but you will be expected to make equal sacrifice. Most families, contrary to stereotype, that choose private school are not swimming in dough. Most of them are making a great sacrifice financially because that choice fits what they are trying to accomplish as a parent. In any event, if you just want free or cheap, private school is definitely not an option.
At the same time I would warn against going into debt to fund K-12 education. I see some families dying on the financial vine out of guilt. Part of discipleship is stewardship. If paying more fits your educational philosophy and it helps you accomplish your goals for your children, then sacrifice. But don’t go private school out of guilt or pride. Financing fear is foolish. Don’t be deceived in thinking that taking out a loan for the 3rd grade will get you a better seat in the Kingdom.
Currently my wife and I have chosen to pay for our children to attend a private Christian school in our community. This year will be the first year both of our children are in the school together. Transitioning financially from public education to private education has not been easy, but we love what we see happening in the school we have chosen. I am very involved in many of our local public schools and would feel comfortable with my children attending them, but for our goals at this time in the education journey, we do want more than book learning. We found that if we are willing to pay more, we will receive more from our private school what we are looking for than our local public schools can offer (I will discuss this more in freedom).
As our children enter their teenage years we are looking not only for books, but for philosophical and moral support. During your child’s elementary years you will probably find it easy to get involved in your child’s school. Once they enter middle school and high school, the doors seem to come with tighter locks. In some sense, we are now paying so we can stay involved.
Academically our goal is to expose our children to the highest degree of challenge possible and we found an affordable (with sacrifice) convergence of these things in the school we have chosen for them. With this school there are also some people on staff who offer services for our children’s advancement that we could not find anywhere else. For instance, our school has someone on staff who is incredibly specialized at helping students prepare, apply, and get acceptance in the best universities. She is not your normal guidance counselor. I have told my wife often that what she does is worth the price of tuition.
Look at your wallet and decide. What is affordable? Yet in any venue of education you choose, be prepared to pay. What you have to consider is how much will I pay, and for what am I paying?