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Public or Private School? Are Parents Judging Each Other?


Personally, I’m a product of public school. Not that my parents could afford private school for me, even if they wanted to. They divorced when I was very young and they barely could make ends meet. I attended an inner-city elementary school in N.Y., then my mom did a 360 and moved us to Long Island when I was 11, where I attended one of the best junior high and high schools in the country. So, you could say, I had a taste of two entirely different public school systems (one of a low socio-economic status and the other, middle-upper class).

Now, as a parent, here I am, going through the motions of making decisions for my own children. Public or private school? I made my decision. It’s public. And for many reasons. I won’t dwell on my reasoning, nor will I sit here and write a persuasive document on why public school is the right choice for my daughters. That wouldn’t do any justice for the biggest reason being that my children aren’t any better than anybody else’s kids. My husband and I merely feel that the public school system they’re in now adequately fits our academic and social expectations. The other factor being that they’re flourishing where they’re at. Happy kids + happy parents = happy living. That’s my family lifestyle equation.

So, my question is, “why do so many parents judge each other based on if their kids are going to attend either public school or take the private route?” I can’t tell you how often I engage in conversations with parents weekly about this topic. I have friends whose children are in private school and friends whose kids attend public school. It’s inevitable that as parents, we have our own opinions about what’s best for our children. Does that mean we need to pass judgment when talking about this subject with others? Am I less of a parent because I’m not giving my children the opportunities that a private school has to offer? And what might those opportunities be? Are there more pros than cons to entering the private sector? Do more doors open to better colleges for students who attend private school? Parents can debate these many issues or have their own reasoning for that matter, but at the end of the day, it’s not about us, the parents. It’s about our children, and about what the needs of our children are, academically and socially, even emotionally as well.

I’ve worked in both public schools and private schools. I cannot tell you that one is better than the other. Truly, it all depends on the child. There is no “one size fits all” answer on which is the best way to go. There are some children who need to feel like they are the big fish in a little pond. A smaller school with a low population of students is best suited for these types of kids. Other reasons could be that children who need more individualized attention for various reasons need to be in classrooms with a low teacher/student ratio. Then there are the children who excel as students no matter what the size of the school is and how big or small the classes are. They are the students who succeed and can flourish despite the type of environment they’re in.

I recently was at a dinner party and engaged in a conversation with other moms who were talking about…yep, you guessed it. The infamous topic of whether their children are or will be attending public school or private school. I feel like it’s a judgment call again. Like, do my daughters play tennis at the local recreation center, or at the country club? Not a school comparison, but it does feel somewhat similar.

My hope is that our children can shine and get a shot at reaching their highest potential regardless of what school they attend. I also hope that as parents, we can limit our judgments of others and keep in mind our one commonality, which is to make each moment count in our children’s lives so that their future can be composed of developmental milestones. Educational decisions are personal. There’s a school for every child. The right school. Not the perfect school. So, what does it matter? Private school? Public school? What about home school? Didn’t touch on that topic. I’ll save that for another blog.

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