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  • The School Vibe

    September 20, 2010

    For the last six years, the only question in terms of Sean’s education has been which private school he would attend.

    Homeschooling has always been an option we’ve entertained; it’s always on the table.  Public school was never an option.  And now for some reason, at this point, I sort of feel like I should apologize for that sentiment or at least insert a feeble “not that there’s anything wrong with it.”  But I’m not going to because that sort of thing makes me weary of late.

    So, for the past two years we have done all due diligence in finding the right private school for our one and only son.  We did all the research that any prudent person would do when making an important decision, not to mention a substantial investment.  We researched, we made spreadsheets, we talked to other parents.  We visited, we visited and we visited some more until we narrowed the list down to three schools.

    But ultimately none of those three schools seemed right.  All are excellent, highly rated, well-established schools staffed by professional educators.  Their stats are great and the kids we chatted with on campus were impressive. Nary a red flag to be seen.  People who send their kids to those schools LOVE those schools and can’t say enough good things about them.  Those are all good things, things that make for good marketing materials.  But I tend to operate on intuition.  And after all the visits, I never got that vibe – that undeniable voice that whispers in your ear, “You are in the right place. This is it.”

    In our area, private school tuition runs about $10,000 a year, give or take, and for ten grand, I need to have that vibe.  The ten grand isn’t for the education — it’s for the vibe.

    Well, the summer kind of slipped past and before we knew it, it was the middle of August.  It was two weeks before school started and we still didn’t have our child enrolled in school anywhere.  And so because we couldn’t make a decision, the decision was made for us. We enrolled Sean in public school.  The one school we had not considered, not researched, not visited — was the right school.  God likes to rip up my plans into itty bitty pieces and throw them in the air like confetti.

    We are six weeks into the school year and we could not be happier. We love walking to school, we love our teacher, we love the routine.

    I’ve definitely got the vibe that at least for now, for this school year, this is the right place.

    49 Comments »

    1. Heide says:

      Fantastic. Very glad it worked out that way. When there are options (which is a good problem to have), identifying the right one is such an individual process for each child and each family.

      September 20th, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    2. Amy says:

      That makes me sigh….in a good way. I am glad for you and glad for the vibe.

      September 20th, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    3. Jane says:

      Yea! I am a public school teacher and I strive to give the “vibe.”

      September 20th, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    4. Amy says:

      As a public school teacher (2nd grade) my feathers were ruffled when I read “public school was never an option”. I’m so happy to hear that it’s working for you. Thank you for keeping an open mind. May Sean continue to have a wonderful year.

      September 20th, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    5. meghan @ spicy magnolia says:

      Oh, the vibe. I am familiar with the vibe. And while most of the time I don’t like my plans torn up into confetti by the Lord, the result ends up being beautiful, good, and right. I’m so excited for Sean this year and thankful to know that it’s been a great year. Wow…6 weeks already!? That’s crazy! Blessings, friend!

      September 20th, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    6. Roxanne says:

      I attended a private, Christian school all but 1 1/2 years of my K-12 education, then attended a private, Christian university for the four years it took to get my bachelor’s. I am, as someone said, pedigreed. I now TEACH in a public school. I have friends who home school and swear by it. I think it’s much like having a baby naturally or with an epidural. . .rooming in or the nursery. . .breast or bottle. . .stay at home mom or working mother. You do what you can when you can and you love, love, love and talk, talk, talk and read, read, read and then love some more in the cracks.

      September 20th, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    7. Tater Mama says:

      I’m glad to hear that Sean’s year is off to a great start and that you’re happy with his school. As a public school teacher to 20 of the cutest 2nd graders ever, thanks for giving it a try. I hope the year gets better and better.

      September 20th, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    8. Anne says:

      The search for the “right” school is such an emotional one. Here, in Los Angeles, where tuition can run up to $30,000 for Kinder, it’s also a fiercely competitive journey. What I have found, now in our fourth year in the public system, is that no school is going to be perfect, whether it’s private or public, and that no one school is going to be the right fit for every child. Good neighborhood public schools have so much going for them – I only wish that the curriculum in our Los Angeles public system weren’t so full of worksheets, busy-work homework and unhealthy obsessions with test scores. This became intolerable for us in second grade so we switched to a charter for third grade. Hoping Sean has a great year in Kinder – it’s such a fun milestone.

      September 20th, 2010 at 11:39 pm

    9. Nan says:

      We’ve done both, and they have both been positive experiences. Kids really get their ‘education’ from home… private school kids can fail too, and we’ve seen it happen over and over. The problems at private school are different, they aren’t non-existent (private school folks are better at covering up! Public school, what you see is what you get). Public school, you will meet wonderful people (and dreadful ones) and your boy will grow up to know the difference.

      Use the money you’re saving to further the family’s education: go to museums, buy great books, visit the rainforest. Have music classes. Buy art materials! Keep reading to him. The more he reads, the better educated he’ll be.

      September 21st, 2010 at 3:06 am

    10. Karen Lewis says:

      Schooling is a personal choice – no one should ever get upset or be indignant about how another person chooses to school their child. We choose to homeschool because it works for our family, but realize that it’s not always an option or the best choice for other families.

      So so happy that you’ve found something that works for your family and especially for Sean. 🙂

      September 21st, 2010 at 6:33 am

    11. Kathy says:

      God likes to rip up my plans into itty bitty pieces and throw them in the air like confetti.

      This.

      The celebration with streamers and confetti – because God loves so very much – even as He takes away our carefully made plans.

      September 21st, 2010 at 6:58 am

    12. Shelly @ Life on the Wild Side says:

      I love Roxanne’s comment: “You do what you can when you can and you love, love, love and talk, talk, talk and read, read, read and then love some more in the cracks.” This is how we’ve approached over 13 years in public school. We don’t expect the school to be the be-all and end-all for our kids. We recognize the downfalls and choose to rejoice in what goes well (and more goes well than badly). Public school gives kids a great opportunity to see many different sides of life and to make decisions for themselves about how they will live while their parents are still there to help guide their decision.

      Bless you, my friend!

      September 21st, 2010 at 7:35 am

    13. Donna@WayMoreHomemade says:

      I was wondering where y’all landed on this. I’m glad it is working out so well. <3

      September 21st, 2010 at 8:05 am

    14. momof8 says:

      (Big smile)

      September 21st, 2010 at 8:40 am

    15. Heidi says:

      With a junior in high school and one who graduated this past May – I am overwhelmed at the memories and frienships, the wonderful experiences and lessons my kids have learned at their tiny public school. All of these can be found with any education choice, but for us it has been with public school.
      It’s all about keeping an open mind and accepting our own choices and that of others.

      September 21st, 2010 at 8:50 am

    16. Iota says:

      One of the humbling things about the parenthood journey is that we learn that we are not always right. I applaud your flexibility.

      Do you think, too, that there isn’t just one right decision? That (forgetting the vibes for a moment) a child can thrive in various environments, and the real issue is to swim well in whatever pool you’ve jumped into?

      * * *
      Yes, of course, I think Sean would do well wherever he went. But before I can fork over 10K, I have to know (get the vibe) that he’s getting something remarkably better than what he’s getting at the school up the street for “free” (as if school taxes are free).

      September 21st, 2010 at 9:00 am

    17. shelly says:

      enjoy the public school and pray for good christian teachers and staff…where would the public school system be if all the christians went private??? our community is blessed with good people, good staff, good parents, great children…i have been private and public, and while i loved the private, my children needed to learn that the universe did not revolve around them and their small school…never regretted a day in our wonderful public school system

      September 21st, 2010 at 9:27 am

    18. Earline Gualdoni says:

      Love your blog. Is your son in K or 1st at 6 years old? We don’t have private options in our area, so public was the ONLY choice. So far it’s been great our one and only Zach is in 1st grade and has awesome teachers both years. We’re so thankful that there are a lot of Christian teachers teaching in public schools.

      September 21st, 2010 at 9:42 am

    19. Lori McDaniel says:

      My thoughts exactly. So many of our friends have sent their children to a private Christian school in our area, but for now, I have been very pleased with the public school system. My son is only in the 2nd grade but for now, this is what is right for us too! We couldn’t ask for better teachers than he has had in first and seconnd grades!

      September 21st, 2010 at 10:11 am

    20. tom says:

      So nice that you’re close enough to walk to school, and that the vibe is right. I think we have that vibe with ours as well; Michael’s sisters all attended this school as well, and the teachers were excited to know their little brother was on his way.
      Glad this is turning out to be the right fit for Sean!

      * * *
      We lovelovelove walking to school in the morning. It’s about a half mile, and it is a wonderful family time and good exercise. Hopefully it will be a cherished childhood memory for Sean, that his mommy and daddy walked to school with him every morning.

      September 21st, 2010 at 10:42 am

    21. Julie says:

      I’ve done the homeschool thing and the private school thing — when my 24 year old was K through 8. He went to public high schools. My gut said to put in him public school in kindergarten. I didn’t. (Bad things have since happened.)

      My five-year-old is now in public kindergarten. The jury is still out on what my gut says. But I’m listening.

      The biggest lesson I have learned over the years is that the gut is rarely wrong.

      September 21st, 2010 at 11:23 am

    22. Shelly says:

      So happy for you all. God is good.

      September 21st, 2010 at 11:45 am

    23. Cathie says:

      We are lucky to live in an area with excellent public schools. So excellent, in fact, that when you mention that you are thinking of home schooling, people are perplexed. For right now, we are very pleased to be part of our son’s public school community, and find that many of the parents with which we are acquainted have values that are similar to our own. When Gabe is older, and will be sent to a very large high school nearby, we will re-evaluate the situation.
      Yes, God is good.

      September 21st, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    24. Naomi says:

      I’m glad to hear you have been happy so far. I myself went to the “right” private school K-12. I attended a private college and you know what? It didn’t do anything special for me! I feel badly that my parents spent the money they did on my education. I am now a single mom of a 6 year old and she attends our local public school. So far her education and the attention she receives from the educators is far superior to what I received at her age. I think parent involvement is the real key to a child’s success and you are doing a fine job with your son. Good Luck!

      September 21st, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    25. amy branson says:

      Vibes are good to listen to!

      September 21st, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    26. Sarah S. says:

      So thankful you are at peace with your decision. We, too, LOVED walking to school — absolutely one of the best parts of public school, I believe, and I miss it SO much now that middle school and high school are too far away (though driving together is kind of like our own quiet walk… minus the leaf crunching and rock kicking).

      I agree with what Shelly said, as well: “Public school gives kids a great opportunity to see many different sides of life and to make decisions for themselves about how they will live while their parents are still there to help guide their decision.” While some real ugliness has encroached on our little world because of public school (not until middle school — which is its own kind of ugly), I have been thankful my kids have had the opportunity to strengthen the muscles that resist such, and always have been proud of how they look on the other side of it.

      September 21st, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    27. Julia Lockahrt says:

      I think it’s wise to consider all the options, and make the right one based on your kid, your family, your economic situation, etc. There’s not a “one size fits all” answer! 2 of my 3 kids are in public school, the 3rd is still a preschooler. Right now, this is the right step for us. Next year? We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it!

      September 21st, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    28. ora says:

      it makes me happy to know that you found a good public school…that is not always the case for alot of folks…and with that I say…parental involvement in the childs education is so necessary…not an option…but necessary…we were happy to find the right public school for our gson…he florished!!! but now he is in middle school…sixth grade…and the situation has changed…home schooling and private school not an option…so needless to say…we keep a very close eye on his progress…his learning…his happiness…so far so good…so again I say…parents need to be “in school” so to speak about their childrens education!!! sorry didn’t mean to run and run LOL…schooling is such a topic!!!

      September 21st, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    29. Megan (FriedOkra) says:

      Aw. That’s so neat it turned out that way. I’m all about the instinct too — I try sometimes to go against what my gut tells me to “fit in” or please others, and it almost always gets me in trouble. Did AD understand all the “vibe” talk? Sometimes Al is a little too pragmatic to follow all of my “it just doesn’t FEEL quite right” talk.

      * * *
      AD was busy making spreadsheets and anal-yzing.

      September 21st, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    30. mythoughtsonthat says:

      Oh, I know about The Vibe: I feel it every time I set foot in my boy’s school. So great that you have found it. Peace.

      September 21st, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    31. Cyndi - The Adventures of HarryJack says:

      How wonderful! We feel the same way about our kids’ school, tho there has been a shift in principals that has me all wacky-vibed out…we’ll see. So glad he’s enjoying it and you all are happy with the education he is getting.

      September 21st, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    32. Aisha@JustMom says:

      It’s funny how God works, isn’t it. 🙂

      We originally enrolled our son last fall into our parish’s Catholic school. It had been my dream to send him there, but God had other plans. To make a long story, short, we ended up transferring him in to the public school in our district. There wasn’t anything wrong with the parochial school; the teachers were great and he liked it there. It just turned out that the public school was a better fit for him.

      I’m glad Sean is doing well in school and that you’re getting that vibe. 😀

      September 21st, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    33. Dawn Camp says:

      Glad it’s working out and that you’re saving all that dough! 🙂

      September 21st, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    34. Pat Trippiedi says:

      So glad to hear that public school worked out for you. We had Ross enrolled in both the public and the private school last year and literally made the decision days before school started. We compared school report cards and stats (no easy feat as public uses ISAT and private uses Terra Nova tests- no apples to apples comparisons)and made many visits. We pay a lot in taxes and people move to our city for the public schools but it still was a tough decision for us, but at least we had good choices to choose from. We went the public school route and we couldn’t be happier. He just started catechism at our church and I am volunteering as one of the first grade catechists so I can teach my son and his peers. I am on the tail end of my Masters in Education and earning my teaching certificate and I am looking to work in the public schools. There are some wonderful districts out there.

      September 21st, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    35. sheilah says:

      When Evan started school we were living at our house in FL. The brand new public school was walking/biking distance away. Evan rode his bike and I walked beside him until we crossed the one not-really-but-semi-kinda-busy street at which point he took off ahead of me (I finished the 1/2 mile walk for the exercise). It was a good time for us both to start the day with a little exercise/mommy/son time.

      Now we are in PA (got a job-yay) and he rides the bus to a private school. The bus stop is not far away and we still walk the half block or so. That time is precious to me. Soon enough he will cross the street to avoid walking with his mommy but for now we can enjoy the time together.

      September 22nd, 2010 at 8:03 am

    36. Tiff @ The Faery Inn says:

      Vibes are surprisingly reliable.

      September 22nd, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    37. rrmama says:

      I’m so glad you love it! My kids go to public school and I love walking into the school and seeing their teachers and their friends. I guess it helps to that their dad is also a teacher in the same school.

      September 22nd, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    38. Hannah says:

      It seems like that happens a lot… I research myself into a hole, and once I come to the point of needing to make a decision, something else opens up right in front of me (that was there all along, of course) and it turns out to be perfect. I’m glad the school situation worked out!

      September 22nd, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    39. nicole says:

      So glad you love your school. We also love our public school. It feels like a neighborhood school because it is one. Class sizes are similar to private schools, most of the teachers have been there for a long time and that is a good thing in their case, and the staff knows our kids and us. I have reservations about moving on to middle school, but I will leave that alone for now and enjoy our good fit.

      September 23rd, 2010 at 9:46 am

    40. Edie Mindell says:

      I am glad you and Sean like public school so far. 🙂 The best schools are where your child develops love for it and continues to strive hard and achieve the best education whether it’s in private or public schools.:-) God has a perfect plan for us, and His plan always work for the best.:-)

      September 23rd, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    41. Brigitte says:

      I don’t think I’d even think about private school (discounting the whole COST issue) unless the local schools were all truly horrifying, bottom-of-the-barrel schools. I’m not even conversant enough to know what advantages they might give!

      September 24th, 2010 at 6:13 am

    42. Lilly says:

      Your public school sounds wonderful and to walk to school and for it to be ‘free’ is a true gift AND your son will have local friends who might be with him all the way through high school. And being part of the local public school community makes playing with friends after school so much easier and you get a community of parent friends nearby also.

      I, like you, did tons of research and visits to all the local schools, private and public for my son. We decided to send my son to a Montessori school for elementary because of the wonderful studious and peaceful ‘vibe’ there and the fact that I found the public school chaotic.

      Then for middle school we tried the public school. My son didn’t know many of the kids and he’d been used to a close friendly relationship with his teachers which was not going to happen at Middle School. He found the kids to be mean toward each other and toward the teachers and he was more and more unhappy as the year went on. So the next year we moved him to a Montessori middle school.

      Now he is at the nearby public high school which turns out to be great. The kids have grown out of the middle school attitude and the school is made up of small multi-age learning groups, like Montessori.

      So, that’s my experience in a nutshell. I think partly because of Montessori, my son is a compassionate, open, trusting and trustworthy kid. Many of the kids his age seem defensive and wary. As long as you see that your son is being treated lovingly by his teachers and that the prevailing attitude of the other kids is positive, I’d be totally in favor of the public school.

      September 24th, 2010 at 8:44 am

    43. Antique Mommy says:

      We sort of assumed private school because we were wanting a smaller environment where the curriculum was in agreement with and in support of the faith that we teach at home.

      Because the front-end investment in these private schools is steep, families tend to stay put through high school so it would actually be more likely that Sean would go to school with the same kids through high school in private school and unlikely in our public school because people move here knowing they will be transferred in a year or two. It’s a very transient area, unlike the neighborhood where I grew up where people have lived in the same house for 60 years.

      What we’ve realized though is that we will have to make this decision every school year. What works for this year, might not work next. I’m glad I live in a country where I have choices.

      September 24th, 2010 at 9:36 am

    44. Kelly@ The Feathered Nest says:

      Never say never, right?

      * * *
      Actually that was the 3rd post I ever wrote: Never Say Never

      September 24th, 2010 at 10:47 am

    45. Kimberlie says:

      Hi! I am popping over from Owlhaven. I laughed when I read your comment about public school because that’s how my husband and I used to think – no way. Last year though, with three kids, finances just weren’t there for private school. So we made the leap to the public school with mixed reviews.

      Son #1 had an AWESOME teacher and thrived. Son #2, my very kinesthetic kid, not so much. He’s back in private school this year (Montessori). Our daughter also thrived in the public school.

      The lesson we learned? Pray about each child’s individual needs and make the best decision for them even if it means three children in three different schools.

      Like you said, this is the right decision for this year, you pray about next year.

      September 26th, 2010 at 7:59 am

    46. Jenny says:

      I’m so glad you got good vibes, wherever Sean ended up. As a former teacher, now substitute, I’m glad it was at a public school. But I think wherever the child goes and feels great is good.

      September 26th, 2010 at 9:50 am

    47. Sarah says:

      We, too, had said “never” to public school. My twins are now in first grade in their FOURTH year of public school (2 years preschool + kindergarten). I think that when we say “never”, God gets His plan-ripping implements out!

      September 28th, 2010 at 10:32 am

    48. Jenn A. says:

      I’m glad you found what works! I am a public school teacher and I have observed that each year, parents must evaluate what option best suits their child’s needs. Whatever path you take, it is a relief to know that it is the right one.

      September 30th, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    49. Susan says:

      We are big public school fans. Public school is like the real world…a little bit of something and someone for everyone. There will always be the kid who is a little juvie in training, the kid with the annoying parents, the doctors kids, the kids from the apartments whose parents don’t know where the rent comes from. And that is just where I want my daughter…because Jesus hung out at the well and met the real people.

      October 3rd, 2010 at 4:23 pm

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