Getting Schooled … Private versus Public

Written by CocoaMamas contributor Tracy B.

My oldest son is getting ready to go back to school. He will be starting fourth grade at a public school near our home and the anxiety and anger that I feel are difficult to articulate.

I grew up fortunate enough to be able to attend private schools up until high school, when I decided I wanted to go to public school. Where I came from, the public school system had a reputation for brokenness and in my neighborhood, especially, the public schools were frightening. Because my single mother was able to send my older brother and me to private schools, I decided that I, too, would make this a priority in raising my children. I saw the difference first-hand and I wanted to give my children the best opportunities possible.   

When my husband and I started our family, I made it clear that I wanted our children to receive a private school education. At the same time, we took up residence in suburban areas of Georgia where the public schools performed well. Since my oldest began school in pre-kindergarten, he attended a Christian school that we loved and he thrived. And while paying for it has at times been a bit of a struggle, the compliments we received about his above-average intelligence and the results we saw made the struggle worth it.

But, to be perfectly honest, it seemed that the struggle began to be mine alone and my husband no longer shared in the vision I thought we were collectively working toward. Having grown up in public schools, or maybe because he felt that the schools in our area are just as good as the school we were paying for, there was not the fervor to continue to make the sacrifices so that our son could stay in a school he’d grown in. And so, at the end of the last school year, I was faced with the task of telling my child that he would be going to a new school, would have to make new friends and things would be changing for all of us. My sensitive boy fell into tears and I held him as he told me through sobs that he did not want to go to a new school and did not want to have to try to make new friends. I reassured him the best way I could, uncertain that what I told him was right – hoping that this would be a decision that would work out for the best.

As a loving parent, I want to shield my boys from everything in the world that may cause them even an inkling of discomfort. If it were up to me, I’d home-school them and supervise every minute of their life for the promise that they’d just live long enough to become men. But that’s unrealistic. And yes, I do know how valuable it is for children to be exposed to different experiences and environments.

Living in suburban (or closer to rural) Georgia and entrusting someone to teach my children without inserting their racial bias or other ideas into the lesson plan is a definite concern. Only time will tell what the transition will mean, but I am hoping I will be pleasantly surprised. I hope my son attends school close to home and is relieved when he finally makes friends that live close to our home that he can play with. I hope that his advanced abilities will translate well and be nurtured so that he continues to thrive academically at his new school. I hope. I pray. I worry.

At the end of the day, I’ll put it in God’s hands and trust that it is all as it should be. Deep down I know he’ll be fine. We’ll be fine. After all, I know that I won’t accept anything less.

2 thoughts on “Getting Schooled … Private versus Public

  1. I am a big cry baby.. and this brought tears to my eyes because it reminds me of my daughter. The one phrase “I hope. I pray. I worry.” is how I live throughout the school year. My baby goes to a predominantly white elementary and it truly concerns my soul. Everyday I ask her how her day went with the fear of her telling me that someone treated her badly because of her color.

    But I know that “At the end of the day, I’ll put it in God’s hands and trust that it is all as it should be.” thanks!

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  2. I wonder if your apprehensions are about public vs. private, or about the particular school your son was attending vs. changing to a new school. Like you said, not all public = bad. Of course, it’s difficult for a child to switch schools; no one ever wants to make a child do that. But if the financial sacrifice wasn’t working anymore, then you have to consider what’s best for your family.

    I’d also say that you and your husband have to get on the same page with this, and present a united voice to your son. Children can pick up on the differences between parents on these types of issues, and your son is going to need you to be 100% positive behind this change, or he won’t be either. If he knows you don’t want this, he may subconsciously sabotage it, or you might too. Really get out there about what the real reason for being upset about the change is, and air it out.

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