Which Works Better -- Public or Private Schools?

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about the pros and cons of public vs. private schools, Opting Out of Private School (payment or subscription required for full text). The article described the pressures on private schools as many public schools successfully raise their standards (and college acceptance rates), and profiled several parents and kids who had happily switched from private to public schools. Of course, first and foremost we want to send our kids to schools that are best for them, right? But the piece got me thinking: What kind of schools are best for working and stay-at-home parents?

I haven't exactly studied this angle -- nor has anyone else that I know of -- which is why I want to hear from everyone, including parents trying relatively new options, such as group homeschooling and online (long-distance) learning. I've sent my kids to four different daycare centers, two private schools and one public school. The public school was hands-down best for me as a working mom. First, the school year stretched from Labor Day to the end of June. And the days were long -- 8:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. In fact, one year, to make up for an excess of snow days, the district lengthened the hours from 8:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., practically an entire workday. Second, the parents -- mostly couples where both worked and single-parent-households -- made me feel right at home. Nearly everyone was in as much of a rush as I was, we all LOVED (and supported) the fabulous afterschool program that ran until 6 p.m., and there was only a little (and totally legitimate) pressure to volunteer.

The private schools have also been great in their own ways. Smaller class sizes, nicer facilities, more attention on the kids from teachers, and thankfully, their own incredible afterschool programs. Also far shorter school years, many more stay-at-home moms madly volunteering for everything, and an odd feeling of suspicion coming from teachers: Does the fact that I'm asking about homework make the teacher think I'm one of those wacko-helicopter parents? In other words, our private schools have tilted slightly in favor of stay-at-home moms.

However, every school is different. My research has come up with no generalities. The award-winning public elementary school I attended as a child recently abolished its afterschool program because most kids had stay-at-home moms. And many private schools cater to working parents or have policies that are intentionally fair to working and at-home parents.

What type of school has been best for you? Public, private, parochial, charter, online, homeschooling? Why? What does this say about what working parents and what their children need from our schools?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  October 11, 2006; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Moms in the News
Previous: No Kids For Me | Next: The Meaningless Child Care Debate

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A major factor I've noticed among my neighbors is whether the parent(s) attended private schools. Somehow, those who attended them perceive them to be superior, and, if possible, would like their own children to benefit.

Of course, income/wealth then plays a major role in the decision-making. Many families in my area don't have sky-high incomes, but if there is any sort of inherited money, trust fund, etc., often private-school tuition (usually with college first, then primary and secondary school second) is paid out of that. Perhaps the parents think this represents a use of the money the benefactors would like (and it probably is!)

My own four kids have gone to public schools when we've lived in the US, for economic reasons, but when we lived overseas, attended the "American School" in our city of residence. These tend to follow the private school model more closely. However, most kids' tuition (including my children's) is fully paid by one of the parents' employers, when the local schools aren't deemed appropriate either because of language (in the case of Switzerland for us) or caliber plus language (in the case of Egypt for us). I liked the small class sizes, and the more intellectual caliber of the teachers, who weren't from a master's in education-type background, but rather were English majors at liberal arts college, with a master's quite often, but not in the education field. It raised the bar in the discussion, particularly when literature or history were the topic.

I taught religious school for many years in a wealthy area of Washington. Over half of the children attended the best private schools with the other half split between DC public schools and Montgomery County public schools. I saw no difference in eagerness to learn, social skills, vocabulary, etc. There did seem to be an emerging elitism among the private school kids, but that may be inherent in their income-stratum.

Children learn in lots of environments. In a history class of 35 which my oldest had many times at a good public high school, he learned a tremendous amount from his peers. There is no way the teacher is doing all the instruction with those numbers!!

I guess that's what nice about our society -- having options. I have chosen public schools except when overseas, but have been lucky to live in an area of the DC suburbs where they're high quality.

Posted by: suzanne goode | October 11, 2006 7:27 AM

The best school for a child depends on two factors: a)the child b)the area in which you live. My husband went parochial. I went to a very large public school. My husband insists our son will be going parochial/private.

My nieces and newphew are home schooled. I am not a fan of home schooling. I think children need to be socialized with others, especially other cultures/religions because it will give them the skills to interact with different people when they get older. Home schooling playgroups rarely involve the types of negative interactions one gets in school. It also seems to be the domain of the religious right, so science isn't properly taught. (Intelligent Design isn't science.)

Posted by: alex. mom | October 11, 2006 7:54 AM

A story comes to mind reading Ms. Steiner's note.

I'm reminded of the charming comment of a classmate's
parent. After putting her daughter in private school for a year,
she put the daughter back in the local public high school saying
"I can be disatisfied for free!" Every school has strengths and
weaknesses and the issue is what works best for the kid.

Posted by: busy vp | October 11, 2006 8:08 AM

It seems very strange to me to approach the issue of what type of education is best for your child by asking what "works best for the parent?".

Yeah, Johnny could have smaller class size and more attention, but I'd have to pick him up 15 minutes earlier so...

Doesn't that seem the ultimate in selfishness?

Posted by: Convenience Shipper | October 11, 2006 8:13 AM

Regarding homeschooled kids: I wouldn't wish that on any kid. When I was in college about 10 years ago (public four-year university), I met a few of those poor souls. Were they smart? Well-educated? Well read? Heck yeah. Could they relate to their peers? Definitely not.

A homeschooled, 19-year-old girl I was friends with was emotionally the age of a middle-school girl, with all the drama ("But I thought you were *my* friend, blah blah blah.") that entailed. She just had no idea how to have friends, how to relate socially people or how to interact with others outside of the classroom. No one really wanted to be friends with her; the rest of us had all outgrown that nonsense at about age 13.

But she did have a great relationship with her dad. And in a lot of academic aspects, she was far ahead of many public-school-educated people we knew. So her homeschool did have valuable benefits. She just couldn't handle any of the life stuff, and it was rather sad.

The way I see it: You can always catch up on the book learning. But people skills aren't so easy if you miss out on them. And considering how much people skills get brought into college courses these days, the lack of social skills does nothing but hurt you far more than the people skills. College doesn't offer remedial classes in how to be a person.

Posted by: Donna | October 11, 2006 8:17 AM


I should know better than to post so early in the morning (West Coaster here).

The second-to-the-last sentence in my above post should read:

"And considering how much people skills get brought into college courses these days, the lack of social skills does nothing but hurt you far more than the academic skills."

Posted by: Donna | October 11, 2006 8:21 AM

My DD is not old enough to attend kindergarten but she does go to a private nursery school. I actually debated in putting her in Catholic school for kindergarten because it is a full day program. I am not sure if a full day kindergarten at the local Catholic school is better then a 1/2 day at the public school. I think if she needs to be there all day, she might as well be getting more instructions. But now my DD goes to speech. If she still needs speech services, I think I can only do that if she is in a public school. So she may be going to Public school by default. After kindergarten, unless we see some problem, she is definitely going to Fairfax public schools. I see nothing wrong with the Fairfax public school systems. Even some of the finer prep schools are not all that impressive. It is just a matter of self selection. I think in the normal college bound classes in the public school, you get the same education as the private schools. Sometimes I think the whole private school thing is just buying a big bag of denial. Parents are convinced they are better simply because they pay for it. I can't say I really considered home schooling. Number one I work but also my DD has speech delays. I couldn't teach her to talk, so what makes me think I could teach her algebra.

Posted by: foamgnome | October 11, 2006 8:23 AM

We are just starting to weigh this decision. My son is 4 and will start school in two years. The schools in our area are going year round, and while it seems like it's a good thing in some aspects -- certainly for families where both parents work, for example -- my husband and I feel quite strongly that the summer vacation is very, very important to children, and to allow our kids that break, we may have to go with private schools. Many of my fondest memories of my childhood happened during those long, lazy summers. Anyway, at this point, we're undecided about what to do, and I'm really looking forward to reading this blog today!

Posted by: WorkingMomX | October 11, 2006 8:34 AM

This decision is something my husband and I struggle with constantly. My DD is in K this year in one of the top systems in the country. But golly, we were shocked to see how it has become SO academic. What happened to science, social studies, art and PE and playtime in school? I think our main dislike of public school is NOT her teacher or the facilities or her fellow classmates. Those are actually working out quite well. It is the lack of emphasis on the WHOLE child experience, and the extreme emphasis on the mantra of reading, reading, writing, math, rinse, and repeat. My child will read, will write and will do math. Does she need learn it all in kindergarten at the expense of not seeing a garden grow or regular outside play? THAT is why we struggle with public vs private.

Posted by: NC Mom | October 11, 2006 8:37 AM


I didn't know schools went all year long in the US. What state do you live in? I always went to a small public school, it sucked but my parents had no choice as to where I went because of money issues and living farther away from the bigger cities in our area.

Posted by: scarry | October 11, 2006 8:46 AM

I think the whole reason we live in Fairfax (or Montgomery) county and pay 500k+ for a ranch house is so that we have public schools we can be entirely comfortable sending our kids to. I'm curious that no one has mentioned how not spending 15k a year for something you can get high quality of for free opens up the family's resources to other things (college funds, one parent taking a slower track, etc.).

Posted by: PTJobFTMom | October 11, 2006 8:47 AM

I am working at a charter school and I think I will have my son go to school here when he is old enough.

Foamgnome raised a question about a child being able to receive speech services in a private school. This may vary, but here in Pennsylvania at least, the private schools are providing speech/language therapy services. I know of several children who were receiving speech in their Catholic schools. I'm not sure about other kinds of private schools, but the Catholic ones are providing speech.

When I worked at an outpatient facility, we had some kids who were in a cyber charter school and came to us for "school" speech therapy--our facility had some sort of contract with the cyber charter school.

I have noticed though that for children with severe disabilities, the public schools often have the best special services. But if your child is pretty typical and just needs some help with some specific speech and language skills, that won't necessarily mean that a private school would be inappropriate.

Posted by: speech girl | October 11, 2006 8:59 AM

I have a very annoying son. I love him dearly, but he causes a lot of frustration for not only me, but his teachers too. He's always tapping his pensil, sliding down the handrail, flipping water at his pals at the water fountain..., the list goes on and on. To make it even worse, he seems immune to punishment. For instance, my sons sees staying in from recess and washing off all the students desktops as a priveledge, rather than a punishment. Every rule has a boundary, and he is constantly walking right on that line which drives adults nuts.

I've seen other kids like this and know the parents. The standard treatment seems to be medication. I've never been rude enough to ask what pushed the parents over the edge to have their child diagnosed and medicated, but I know there seems to be a lot of pressure that comes from the school system.

Now I understand the the Bush administration has already provided funding to launched pilot programs for mental health screening through the public school systems. My fear is that my son will get caught up in this program and then I'll be forced to provide medication for him or be convicted for child neglect. My opinion is that treating unwanted personality traits with medications that permanently changes the brain chemistry of a 9 year old is child abuse.

does anybody out there have any experience with this issue? Are my fears unfounded, or can I cross this one off the ever lengthening list of fears the Bush administration is plagueing me with?

Posted by: Father of 4 | October 11, 2006 9:02 AM

In Illinois schools are primarily funded through individual and corporate property taxes, so its no surprise that the wealthiest communities or those with a very large industrial base have the best public schools. My family is fortunate to live in a "North Shore" suburb of Chicago where the schools lack for nothing, so my children go to public school. Private schools here (the vast majority of which are Catholic or Evangelical Christian) often actually lag behind the public schools in terms of course offerings, extracurricular programs and facilities, but people use them because they want their children to be educated in a religious environment. I respect those parents' decisions, but since my family is neither Catholic nor Evangelical Christian it just makes more sense to stick with the public schools.

While the policies of my elementary school district are slanted toward SAHMs(PTA meetings at 9:30 am on a weekday? band and choir concerts at 1:00 pm on a weekday? give me a break!), the school does provide after school care until 6:30 pm and a tuition-based kindergarten enrichment program to fill the gap between half-day kindergarten and the after school program for working parents. The districts offer plenty of volunteer and fundraising opportunties, but there isn't any undue pressure to participate.

In my situation there is no benefit to sending my children to a private school. In other communities in Illinois, though, private schools serve as a sanctuary from the chaos of a public school system funded by local property taxes instead of by State government. The system suffers from huge disparities, to the detriment of families in lower income areas. While statewide school funding reform is the answer, private schools do help even the playing field until the day the politicians can summon the political will to fix the system.

Posted by: MP | October 11, 2006 9:02 AM

As most of you regular readers know, I live in a very close-knit neighborhood. We have mostly public school kids, with some private and 4 homeschooled kids (my kids are not school-age). I know most of the kids very, very well and I would have to say that the homeschooled kids are by far the most emotionally mature-- the best at smoothing over differences, relating to children of different ages, working through differences. Part of it is the parents' philosophy of play-based learning-- the homeschooled kids spend most of the day outside playing with friends and younger children. Part of it is that our neighborhood has lots of interaction with the kids and the adults. The parents also have children doing volunteer work, which involves them with more of the outside world.

Of course I'm not saying that most homeschoolers have this situation-- I think this is an exceptional case-- but I was skeptical before and have now become convinced that homeschooling can be done very, very well.

Posted by: Ms L | October 11, 2006 9:05 AM

I was public schooled in MontCo school system more than 20 years ago. The schools still seem very good to me and I intend to send my daughter there. I have some feelings about private school that may be more about where I feel I belong in the class structure than anything else, but I don't want to have my child educated that way. My church has a "parochial" school that seems more like a prep school and I bristle when asked to contribute to it. It is presented as an outreach ministry, but I always see mostly Jaguars and Mercedes in the pickup and dropoff lines, so I'm not convinced. It is also fabulously expensive.

Posted by: MaryB | October 11, 2006 9:07 AM

It really depends on the schools. My older son, now 16, was in private K, public grades 1-8, and is now in a college prep HS. There are definitely some snooty families there, but teachers there teach like the professor in your favorite college seminar and with the same degree of inspiration, and there is that emphasis on the whole person: sports, foreign language, public service, music, and the arts.

One huge difference I see is that public schools act as if they are required to tolerate behavior that is disruptive and dangerous to other students. Bullying, shoving, cursing, stealing, taunting, lewd behavior: this is what you see in the hallways of middle and high schools unless there is a brave, resourceful, and creative principal that backs up his/her teachers in watching for and stopping this nonsense. The essay "Why Nerds Are Unpopular" explains how the closed society in schools (public or private) can end up looking like the Lord of the Flies http://www.paulgraham.com/nerds.html

Posted by: Columbia MD (working) mom | October 11, 2006 9:14 AM

Some of the schools in Fairfax County VA have year round school. My sister's kids attend a year round elementary school. They have a week off in October, a week at Christmas, two weeks in March/April (if they don't have to make up snow days), and from the middle of June to the end of July off.

Not year round per se, just a shorter summer vacation with a week off in the fall and possibly up to two weeks off in the spring.

Nice for getting off season vacation rates.

I live in the Fairfax/Chantilly part of the county and wish I had the same schedule.

Posted by: Robin | October 11, 2006 9:15 AM

Scarry, I live in Wake County in North Carolina. Many of the elementary schools will be going year round in 2007, and the middle schools will be next. I've been told the high schools will be kept on the traditional calendar so that kids can make money to save for college during the summer vacation. We moved here in large part because the schools are very good, but they're not (obviously) perfect!

Posted by: WorkingMomX | October 11, 2006 9:16 AM

I think that many of us in the DC area recognize that there are very good public schools in this area. Having the privlege of being very close to the workings of a large top-tier private university, I'm happy to say that they try very give public schools the academic respect that some of them deserve. I fully agree with PTJobFTMom that if you are going to pay the freight to live in this area you need to take advantage of some of the great public schooling that your tax dollars buy for your kids.

Also, as a product of a NYC public high school, I am a loud advocate of their system of applications and admissions. Because of this system, teachers know where they can go to teach among the elite high-school teachers in their fields, and kids/parents understand that they can apply to a given high-school to further the child's knowledge in a particular specialty and prepare them for a given college major. The child get more involved in that school and its unique complement of extracurriculars and after-school-programs, which to me seems better for both the parent and the child.


Posted by: Proud Papa | October 11, 2006 9:19 AM

I have been thinking about this a lot, though. We live in a low-cost area (decent schools, but no Fairfax County) and can afford to spend the money for private school (there is an excellent one here for 6K a year). A friend of ours sent her daughter to kindergarten at the private school and then at the public school, and showed us a portfolio of the work from each. The work from the private school involved so much more creativity-- and fun-- than the public school. I commend the public school for doing so well with what it has, but the kindergarten work seemed to be mostly filling out Xeroxed spreadsheets and cutting and pasting. Based on this and the physical layout of the public school (which has open classrooms and a LOT of noise, and we have a daughter who is sensitive to noises), we think we will choose private school for our child who will be a kindergartener next year.

This is a sensitive subject, though. I know many people who are passionate about the public schools and feel that you are betraying society or values if you send your kid to a private school. I don't feel this way, but I have felt some tension from friends who do.

Posted by: Ms L | October 11, 2006 9:19 AM

I went to a private school my entire life until high school. The public high school I attended was supposed to be one of the "best" in the area, but I was shocked by the fact they were teaching the freshmen things I had learned in 7th grade. I was shocked at how they skimmed over every subject and did not have a very in depth approach (except for math) to their curriculum as I'd received in private school. And most of the teachers just didn't care.
Granted, private school can be expensive, but most have some sort of financial aid available.
Although homeschooling is a great option for some, I do not believe it is beneficial to the child in the long run. I have known a few homeschooled children and they were all socially awkward and not quite up to par emotionally with other kids.

Posted by: anon. | October 11, 2006 9:23 AM

No kids of my own, but I can weigh in on what my parents did.

I went to parochial school from grade 3 through high school. My brother only went from grades 5 through 8.

In terms of intelligence, we are equals (I do think my grade school could have taught more geography).
In terms of a rebellious phase, we both had one (drugs, drinking, disobeying).
We both got into great colleges, and we both have good social skills. Because of the area (Wheaton), we were both exposed to diversity.

Two differences:
1. The three parochial schools I attended had churches attached. I was very involved in the church community (I was an alter server), and there was always after-school care. I think we learned morality, spirituality, manners, and respect for other people in addition to the regular curriculum.
2. These schools provide structure. I loved it and thrived in it. My brother did not, which is why he left for public school for high school. It depends on your kid.

Now, I'm not a religious looney. I barely ever go to church now. But I am spiritual, and I think that comes from the school I went to. I could also tell the difference between my friends and my brother's. My friends were very polite and respectful toward adult and other kids. Some of my brother's friends were very rude and cursed.

Posted by: Meesh | October 11, 2006 9:23 AM

I think the year round school is friendlier to working parents since the schools usually offer intersession programs for a nominal fee. These programs can be academic, if kids need remedial help, more play oriented (supervised sports/free play), or whole learning oriented. I think they could sign up for two "classes" per session.

I remember reading about one that was called Teddy Bear tea party - they read and write books, prepared food, learned about manners, etc, and then had an actual party. Sounded like fun with a lot of learning hidden in the unit.

Having these intercession classes meant that parents had less time to cover with daycare/camps/etc.

Posted by: Robin | October 11, 2006 9:24 AM

Father of four -- my son probably should get to know your son! In fact, an awful lot of children (mostly boys) sound a lot like our sons, and you're absolutely right that the pressure to medicate is strong indeed. (10% of all 10 year old boys are medication for instance. That is WAY too high.) But speaking of my own personal experience in the Prince William and Fairfax County schools, if you and your family are against medication and are doing other things to work with your son to help him grow and learn at his own pace, you might be surprised how eager public schools here will be to work with you.

We love the advantages of public school -- while class sizes may be larger, the support staff is usually much stronger. The libraries are better and the variety of children (and here I would mention different economic classes, as well as cultural diversity) can teach your child a lot about the world that no textbook can. Going to public school can teach your child that they are part of a community -- not only the community of the school, but the community at large that works best when people come together for the "common wealth."

Posted by: Anonymous | October 11, 2006 9:24 AM

Ms. Steiner,

We have one child in private and one in public (charter) and our "findings" are the opposite of yours. The private school day is about an hour longer and the school year itself almost identical, the public school requires 30 hours of volunteer work and the private school none. Finally, the older the child, the more likely the parents are to work in both cases. Whether we switch the younger child to the private school when he is old enough will depend on his needs not how comfortable I am with the other families. I don't need to make new friends at school - he does.

Posted by: oh please... | October 11, 2006 9:25 AM


Raising Cain Dan Kindlon/Michael Thomspson

The lack of consistent discpline at home, in larger class sizes, with limited/restricted discipline in school leaves teachers groping for control. To the detriment of energetic kids - who are labelled disruptive - for being kids. The cop-out of medicate, sedate and social promote lets the teacher and the parents off the hook IMHO.

Sometimes public schools end up paying for private school because they cant handle/mishandle students whether ADD,AHD, or SAD. Parents need to stay right on top of progress at school to make sure things dont slip through the cracks. Penmanship and computational math slipped through with our oldest - was never taught - too busy studying for the standardized tests I guess.

aside: Taking away recess is the dumbest punishment for "disruptive" kids. The main reason for disrpution is the inability for the child to stay still, calm and attentive for extended periods without an outlet for physical energy.

Posted by: Fo3 | October 11, 2006 9:25 AM

P.S.- School is year round for both Europe and Japan, draw your own conclusions....

Posted by: anon. | October 11, 2006 9:26 AM

My wife and I are both public school graduates. An assessment of the schools in Prince George's County made the decision to go with a private school for us. The student body reflects the diversity of our neighborhood but the students and parents both display a dedication to education that is lacking in the public schools.

Posted by: Rufus | October 11, 2006 9:27 AM

Father of 4,

My one nephew was like your son. My sister in law put him and his sister on medicine when they were both small around 6 or so. Well, it turned him into a zombie, and well, zombies are easy to control so I guess my sister in law and the school were happy.

He took a standardized test a few years back and it turns out he is very, very smart. That test lead to more tests and well, it turns out he has a genesis IQ. Moral of the story is that he was very bored in the small school he was attending and needed more attention and stimuli. He is a senior this year and we are trying to get him ready for college. He is off the medicine, thank god. I don't think that the schools or the government should be able to force you to put you child on medicine. Your boy just seriously sounds bored. Good luck.


I find that very interesting about the schools. Do you parents out there whose kids go year round like it? I think I would like it because my daughter would always be learning. I just wonder if they get burnt out easily though?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 11, 2006 9:28 AM

"One huge difference I see is that public schools act as if they are required to tolerate behavior that is disruptive and dangerous to other students. Bullying, shoving, cursing, stealing, taunting, lewd behavior: this is what you see in the hallways of middle and high schools unless there is a brave, resourceful, and creative principal that backs up his/her teachers in watching for and stopping this nonsense."

Amen brother. This is what I personally went through in public schools, which is why my daughter will not set foot in one unless it's Election Day.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 11, 2006 9:29 AM

We do not live in an area with good public schools, although we did choose our home based on the quality of the specific schools in the district. We tried the public elementary schools, and like Father of 4, I have a son with ADHD that we do not medicate. I had him diagnosed privately rather than through the school in order to have some control over the label assigned to him. After meeting with the principle, providing his medical reports, and discussing his unmedicated status, the administrator put him in a first grade classroom with a second year teacher and three other ADHD boys. Halfway through the year, afte the teacher left marks on his shoulders from holding him still in his chair, we took him out of public school. He's been in private elementary school since where the tuition buys smaller classes, more communication between school and parents, and more accountability for his learning. He's in 5th grade now and will probably try public middle school because our experience with the middle school for our older child has been very positive. So much depends on the individual child, teacher and school.

As far as Leslie's questions, the public schools have better after school programs. The private school does have a bus which is great, but it picks the children up at 7:30 and drops them off at 4:00. All of the class activities are organized and monopolized by a small group of stay at home moms and the handful of working moms are not included. By the time a email is sent to everyone, the group who I believe drops off their children and goes to Starbucks in the mornings, has already made the plans, assigned the roles, and more or less excluded the other parents.

Last, and sorry this is so long, I think the public schools in our area are aware of the possibility of flight to private schools. Our public middle school offers numerous extra afternoon activities and clubs as well as teachers who sponsor trips for the kids. My son went on an eco-teach trip last summer to Costa Rica through the public middle school. This year there are trips offered to England, the DC area and Italy. Our not paying private school tuition means that he can take advantage of these amazing group trips with educators leading them. He'll go to Italy in 2007 for his Spring Break, again through the public school. Our high school does the same thing.

Posted by: SS | October 11, 2006 9:29 AM

It's not about what's best for parents, whether you're a stay-at-home parent or a working parent. It's supposed to be what's best for your children and what you're capable of providing them, period.

Posted by: Linda | October 11, 2006 9:33 AM

My daughter is in a wonderful private Pre-K, but will definitely be in public school for first grade and beyond. We chose our neighborhood based on the quality of the schools and were lucky enough to be able to do so, with a few sacrifices. Most of my family has worked in public education and I am sure that has impacted my world view.

However, Kindergarten is a toss-up, as Loudoun does not have full time Kindergarten and I do not have the flexibility in my work schedule to not be in the office from 11 am-5:15. So she'll either go to public kindergarten and after care where she currently attends, or the robust full time kindergarten at the school she currently attends.

Posted by: NoVA Mom | October 11, 2006 9:35 AM

WorkingMomX, I live in Wake County, too (Apex)! Small world.

I wanted to add that in grade school and high school (grade school went from K-8, so there is no middle school--I don't know if people know that), we had to volunteer a certain number of hours (in high school it was 30 hours each grade). I am grateful that this mindset of giving to people in need was instilled in me early on. I still volunteer and consider it one of the most important things I do.

Posted by: Meesh | October 11, 2006 9:35 AM

As a parent I have been satisfied both with older daughter's Catholic school and younger daughter's Montgomery County public school. (Younger daughter needs special ed support the Catholic schools can't supply. Older daughter was very unhappy about moving here when she was in elementary school and we thought a smaller, more family-oriented school would help the transition, thus the Catholic school. When making her high school choice last year, we seriously considered the public school, which is excellent. Decided against it mainly because of size, which is valuable because of the variety of programs the school can offer, but not right for this kid.) As a working parent, the biggest stressor is having one kid in public and one in private school, because so many of the days off don't match. Less of an issue now that the older one can stay home alone, but still difficult sometimes. They've had the same spring break twice in seven years. But, it was our choice and it's the right choice for each kid, and so we go with it.

Posted by: Otterb | October 11, 2006 9:37 AM


First, I have to know, what happened to the teacher who put marks on your child?


Why does the school and/or all the working parents put up with the parents on the PTA who exclude working parents. I mean what would happen if all the working parents got together and organized something for the school without the PTA star bucks parents. I'm just curios because problems with the PTA are discussed on this board all the time in a round about way and it is one of the reasons that I may put my kids in Catholic school. I just don't want to deal with the favoritism or drama from the PTA parents.

Posted by: scarry | October 11, 2006 9:40 AM

I have attended both public and private schools, and have had experience with both as my children have started school. MoCo schools in MD have great reps, but from my experience, it is hit or miss. That includes public and private. Two things that made a year good or not so good: 1) the teacher and 2) the other students.

Public schools are required by law to have certified teachers. If they are hired on a provisional basis, they have to be making progress toward the certification (taking classes, etc.). Private schools do not have to require this. Many do have certifications and master degrees, but it is not a law. Certification is not a guarantee that the teacher is going to be any good, but it does certify that the teacher has passed certain classes and tests. In order to maintain certification, they must continue to take classes and tests. (In my mind, the amount of work v. amount of compensation is skewed, and not in the favor of the teacher.)

Some public school teachers can be totally focused on the state test (used to be the msa, not sure what it is called now), while private school teachers are not. Private schools do have tests, but they are not going to be put on a watch list if they do not make annual yearly progress. They market their school in other ways, for example, 95% of the graduates got into the h.s/college of their choice. Private schools are expensive, and families that can afford them usually value education and seek it out in other ways for their children. Not always, but often.

The other students can make the year heaven or hell for a child. No need to expand on this topic: we all went through school and either saw it or experienced it.

One more thing. Public school kids seem savvier in their ability to work the system. They know the i's must be dotted. In the private school, the relationship between the parents and school is more intimate. Teachers call parents and tend to build relationships with them that last for years. The teachers at one private school have been there for 20+ years, some of them, and have taught multiple siblings of the same family.

All of that aside, maybe it is time to return to the K through 8 model.

Posted by: anontoday | October 11, 2006 9:44 AM

In my family it was sort of a "which came first, chicken or egg" situation. I grew up in NYC, which my parents chose to do because they both worked and my mother, who had a very demanding full time job did not want to have to rush out to the suburbs if something went wrong (b/c Manhattan is an island, NYC suburbs are harded to get to and from, esp. from Midtown). Because we were in the City and the public schools are not good (and I will admit to the above poster that there are a few fabulous public high schools that require applications) we were sent to private schools from K through 12 - and through college... So, in order to have a good job, we lived in the city, which meant expensive private schools, which in order to afford, my parents worked hard. They definitely sacrificed a lot but I don't think they would have done it any other way. Not sure what I will do. Having gone to private schools all my life I cannot imagine not sending my child to one. My husband went to public school all his life and got a great education. I guess I am wondering how much we want to sacrifice financially, especially when it is not entirely clear that we have to since the public schools where we live are pretty good.

Posted by: Downtown | October 11, 2006 9:47 AM

Living in down-county Montgomery County, MD, there is really no logical (as opposed to religious) reason for anyone to send their child to private school. The private schools pay lip service to smaller class room sizes and so on, but that doesn't translate into anything better academically. If anything, the best public schools will trounce the best private schools academically. Try comparing Burning Tree ES or Cold Spring ES to any private school. Private schools sometimes have better facilities, but you can enroll your children in specialized programs for swimming, tennis etc. that will end up using facilities just as good. The only problem, not to be ignored, is that your child will not have well-connected friends. I'm happy to let my children survive on their abilities rather than on the basis of the people they know. After all, (you know what's coming here) we have a president who has nothing resembling ability or aptitude for anything substantive on his resume---would you want your child to grow up to be George Bush?

Posted by: pro-public-school | October 11, 2006 9:48 AM

"In Illinois schools are primarily funded through individual and corporate property taxes, so its no surprise that the wealthiest communities or those with a very large industrial base have the best public schools."

I don't think that property taxes that go to schools should be divided equally among the schools. If someone works hard to provide a certain type of life for their children they shouldn't have to suffer because other people didn't do the same thing. That seems like socialism to me. If you want things in life you have to work for them, so unless the whole state is going to subsidize my property taxes I suggest you find another solution to the school problem.

Posted by: tired of paying for everyone | October 11, 2006 9:48 AM

I have a basic idea of what I'm supposed to look for in a school -- take the tour, meet the principal, find out about the curriculum, class size, test scores. But I would like to hear from some parents of school-age children what they WISH they would have investigated before enrolling their kids in a particular school. I just have no experience with this yet, and I'm afraid I'm going to overlook some red flags because I don't know what to look for really.


Posted by: 2Preschoolers | October 11, 2006 9:49 AM

I sent my children to public school. We chose to live in Montgomery County because the schools were well regarded.

I had a good student and a not-so-good student. I don't think the school had much to go about that. There were plenty of opportunities for my good student, and my not-so-interested student was pushed the entire time to do a bit better. So I think the schools were a success.

As a member of the community I feel it's important to support public schools and that the best way to do that is to particpate in them.

What I dislike is parents pulling out private school attendance as a badge of status. Pick a school that works for you and your child -- it's a lot more about the child than the school anyway.

Posted by: RoseG | October 11, 2006 9:49 AM

Hmm, I have a lot of mixed feelings about this topic so it's hard to know where to start. Like Father of 4 and some other posters, I have felt some pressure to put my child on meds because he has struggled in his classes here. I have been honest with the school that it is not something I will ever consider, and because he is somewhat in the "gray area" in terms of how disruptive his behavior is, they have not pushed for a formal diagnosis.
I am not happy with the public schools here. Montgomery County schools have this fantastic reputation and I really thought when I moved here that he would be attending a great school. Unfortunatetly, as another posted noted, I feel that the "curriculum" consists almost entirely of worksheets. I am disappointed in the lack of science and social studies material, and agree that there are not enough "creative" opportunities. That said, I could never afford private school here. I attended public school my whole life and thought it was fabulous. But I lived in a very small, rural area and there were no other options anyway.
I also disagree with the posters who think home-schooling is detrimental in the long run. I think it is a wonderful option for younger kids and I would have done it if I could. Ok, sorry for the length.

Posted by: TakomaMom | October 11, 2006 9:49 AM

About year-round schools: It is a very hot topic in Wake County right now. The year-round calendar means kids are in school for 9 weeks, and then off for 3 weeks. I hear good and bad things from parents whose kids are in year-round schools. (FYI, it doesn't seem to be split along the lines of families where both parents work or where one is at home.)

On the positive side, I hear that it's nice to take vacation in the off season, that the kids don't "lose" knowledge over a long summer, and that you don't have to spend a small fortune to come up with that long stretch of summer care for kids if both parents work. There's also a possibility of a child getting some serious remedial help only 9 weeks into a term instead of just continuing to fail for the year and the only option being summer school. On the negative side, you lose your traditional summer vacation (change is hard), and apparently siblings are not always on the same track, which must be a nightmare. Also, I think there's a concern about being able to attract good teachers, because as we all know, the pay isn't great and many teachers supplement their income with summer jobs -- or they just might like the summer off.

The conversations around here that I've heard focus on what the parents think of the year-round calendar, and not the kids. I don't know if they (the kids) would particularly care. Some might think it was great to have 3 weeks off every 2+ months.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | October 11, 2006 9:53 AM

Aren't all school districts in the U.S. funded by property taxes? They are everywhere I have lived, including the midwest, New York and the Washington metro area. Years ago I read "Savage Inequalities" by Jonathan Kozol, which is an excellent and eye-opening book illustrating the failings of the public school system in inner city New York due in large part to the vast differences in property tax revenue among New York school districts.

Unfortunately, poorly funded school systems are the crucial link in a vicious cycle of socioeconomic division. Poorly funded schools cannot attract quality teachers and cannot provide adequate resources, so children receive an inadequate education. These children then fail to pass the tests mandated by the "No Child Left Behind" standards. These children repeat grades or drop out of schoool. Many turn to drugs or criminal activities out of boredom and the need for money. These children receive depressingly low scores on college entrance exams, if they even take them. The vast majority of these children then join the unskilled labor work force, if they can get a job. Of those gifted or lucky enough to receive scholarships or loans, a few attend colleges/universities, and even fewer attend good ones. With few exceptions, these children grow up to be parents much like their own - perhaps well-intentioned, but with little opportunity or motivation to succeed. They live in a state of poverty that limits their school district choices to the same ones their parents had.

And the cycle begins again.

This problem, sadly, is not unique to New York. Obviously, there are standout kids and families that find ways to succeed in environments like the one described above, for a variety of reasons that could be the subject of a thesis and are too complex to delve into here.

I offer no concrete solution to the dilemma, but I raise it as a reminder to all the readers of this blog, myself included, that we are among the most fortunate people in the nation, and certainly the world. We should consider ourselves lucky that our well-funded public school systems and/or our personal financial situations provide us the difficult choice between public and private education for our kids. And regardless of the decision we all make, it is our responsibility to keep discussing these issues among ourselves and with our children, so that (1) our kids realize how fortunate they are and do not grow up to be elitist and condescending, and (2)perhaps we can raise a generation of leaders who will have the empathy and understanding to work on equalizing the "savage inequalities."

Posted by: ABC | October 11, 2006 9:55 AM

I imagine for some people there is no choice but public school. I grew up in rural Northern New York and the only Catholic school was an hour drive away. You have to make the best of what you have.

Posted by: Leroy | October 11, 2006 9:55 AM

Any parent who thinks that bullying, taunting, lewd behavior, etc. do not happen in private schools is deluding themselves. It might not happen as openly, but it is no less insidious.

Posted by: Charlottesville | October 11, 2006 9:56 AM

If you think that Catholic schools don't have pta drama, you are in for a shock. A big one. We have had families MOVE HOUSE because of pta drama. There are the 'Kennedys', who rule the school because they have umpteen children and pay full fare, the "Trumps', who donated a wing onto the school (with a large sign announcing this) and other species. Lots of gossiping at pick-up about parents, teachers, kids, etc. Think 'Peyton Place." I would much rather deal with a little anonymity in a large school than have everyone think they know me and judge me by the car I drive and the purse I carry.

Posted by: to scarry | October 11, 2006 9:58 AM

I think a lot of people use teacher qualifications as a means to determine the quality of a school. (Let me qualify that I am specifying at the elementary school level). Personally, I consider this a poor measure. It is my experience that the best teachers are those who have a genuine love for and interest in children, who are unfailingly patient and kind, and who truly believe in each child's ability to learn. Masters degrees mean little to me. Because private school teachers are often paid less than public school teachers, I have wondered if you find more of these types of teachers there.

Posted by: TakomaMom | October 11, 2006 9:59 AM

Any advice on evaluating whether your public school is right for your child PRIOR to enrolling them? I have a son who is only 14 months, but we plan to do Montessori until 1st grade, and then place him in public schools. However, I'd like to learn more about the elementary school. I worry (especially having an active boy) that there won't be enough physical activity, that the focus will be too much on teaching to standardized tests... Another question -- do private school students get to avoid taking the required standardized tests? That in itself may be a reason to go private.

Posted by: Rebecca | October 11, 2006 9:59 AM

Any advice on evaluating whether your public school is right for your child PRIOR to enrolling them? I have a son who is only 14 months, but we plan to do Montessori until 1st grade, and then place him in public schools. However, I'd like to learn more about the elementary school. I worry (especially having an active boy) that there won't be enough physical activity, that the focus will be too much on teaching to standardized tests... Another question -- do private school students get to avoid taking the required standardized tests? That in itself may be a reason to go private.

Posted by: Rebecca | October 11, 2006 10:00 AM

PTjobFTmom -- I agree with you, up to a point. The $15K you save on private education costs has already been eaten up and then some by the higher cost of that $500K rancher and higher property taxes. Will you break even? Perhaps. But I see your overall point -- that you have to give a little, one way or another, for your child to have a good education.

I live in a County where public schools do not have the sterling reputation that Fairfax and Montgomery (and Howard) County schools have. When we first moved here, I thought, "hey, I'll just send my kids to private school." Then we learned my son had ADHD and behavioral issues (he's also extremely bright and now appears to have sensory issues). For those who don't know, ADHD strikes fear in many schools, b/c the kids can't sit still and/or focus, and they can disrupt the class. Teachers mostly don't have a bag of tricks to prevent or deal with this effectively. But add behavior issues, and the fear increases. I was just about to send my son to a private, Christian school, and his daycare director and another woman working with him encouraged me to try the public school, b/c it seemed that he would need special education. So I did. Overall, he's improving, but I've faced so much resistance and have to fight and advocate so much (and I've hired an advocate for my son, which is like hiring a really cheap lawyer) that I'm fed up with this County's school system. I may put my daughter, now 3, in the County school system for kindergarten if she tests in early, but otherwise, I am thinking of private school.

Here's the other issue -- the private schools in this county are no great shakes, either. They don't have to be -- parents are so eager to not put their child into public school, they practically run to enroll their kids and pay all kinds of money. It seems just about every church has a school. Then I heard the grumbling: a boy who failed kindergarten b/c not only did the private school not provide any extra attention, they recommended a tutor that the parents had to pay for in addition to tuition. The tutor was too little, too late. The parents pulled the child out of the private school and put him in public school to repeat K. He was fine the last I heard. Private schools provide little to no special education/services. If your child is too disruptive, a private school can kick him or her out with less than a day's notice. A local Catholic school in my area has about 35 children in its first grade. Same for a Christian school in the county. Even if there's more than one teacher, why should I pay for that?

If my child were the average child, but still bright, a private school would work for him (I went to both private and public schools, including a public magnet high school). But b/c of the academic skill, so would a public school that challenged him. I could see homeschooling him, but he needs the social skills. Now, he's getting special services, being challenged with a second grade curriculum (he's in 1st grade) and may receive OT services soon. We can't get this in private school, unless it's private special ed school.

And to Donna -- that young woman's social "cluelessness" could have been the reason she was home-schooled. I don't know if she was disabled, but she certainly could have been.

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | October 11, 2006 10:02 AM

Scarry, since I'm an attorney and pursued the issue with the public schools even after taking my children out of the public elementary school, the teacher had mandatory training as did the administrator regarding ADHD, IDEA and the local standards for classroom management. I elected not to file a battery report although I'm not positive that was the right decision. In hindsight, the incident appears even more severe but at the time my focus was on getting my son out of the school.

As far as the idea of a working parent revolt, I love that. But, I suspect that since all of us work and then focus on our families that it may be hard to organize us. I've been much, much more vocal this year than in the past about wanting involvement. I've also changed my work hours and cut back on community service so I can be at the school more and make myself involved and heard. I now go to the school once a week to pick up my son rather than have him ride the bus so that I can talk to teachers and other parents. That's helping a lot. My preschooler will likely start at this private school for kindergarten so I plan to make sure I'm involved from the beginning with her classes, it was harder when my son came in later after some of the parent groups were already formed for his grade level.

Posted by: SS | October 11, 2006 10:02 AM

Thanks to scarry, I really don't know that much about either one, that's why I am asking. My husband went to Catholic school until 3rd grade. I always went to public and had no idea about the PTA until I hit high school and started to realize that some people's parents were always at the school and they seemed to be favored by some of the teachers. The most my mom ever did with the PTA was bake cookies for the bake sale.

Posted by: scarry | October 11, 2006 10:02 AM

My opinion is that treating unwanted personality traits with medications that permanently changes the brain chemistry of a 9 year old is child abuse.


OTOH, maybe your kid really does have a problem that medication can treat. Don't rule anything out without seeing a trained professional who can make a real diagnosis.

Posted by: to Fo4 | October 11, 2006 10:06 AM

I went to a private high school for the last 3 years of h.s. and I remember being absolutely ASTONISHED at how backward and behind the kids seemed in almost every aspect. Socially, emotionally, and mentally, I felt like I'd been bumped back at least 2 grades. It was a parochial school, but let me tell you, the kids got up to more trouble there and were WAY more sexually active than the kids were at public high school I left.

My nieces, now in high school, have gone to private schools all their lives and they know how to suck up very well to adults, but the behind the scenes stuff with them has not been pretty, and my brother is ready to institutionalize them or himself half the time. My sister-in-law tells me that their friends have had run-ins with the police over serious drugs and gotten abortions (one girl has had two and she hasn't graduated from H.S. yet). This school, which is one of the best in the DC area, is full of very privileged kids.

I'm not claiming these things don't happen in your run-of-the-mill public school, but that anecdotal evidence is enough for me to keep my kids when I have them firmly in the public schools!!

Posted by: Thought | October 11, 2006 10:07 AM

"Any advice on evaluating whether your public school is right for your child PRIOR to enrolling them?"

Sitting in a classroom for a day helps. I would also say, talk-- to the teachers at the school, but also especially to other parents about how they made their decisions. You will get a lot of different opinions, some of which you may disagree with-- but they will be illuminating nevertheless. For instance, we met a mother at the library who let her daughter choose her kindergarten-- which she did based on which had a better-looking playground and offered lots of computer time. We disagree with extended computer use for kindergarteners (after reading the book "Failure to Connect") and this was a strike against the school for us.

You can find out a lot about the atmosphere of the school-- even the PTA/ tolerance of bullying stuff-- by talking to other parents. Much more so than if you just observed a classroom for a day.

Posted by: Ms L | October 11, 2006 10:07 AM

We gave seroius consideration to private school because our "neighborhood" school (I put this in quotation marks because, while it's the school we're supposed to go to, there are actually two schools that are closer geographically) had pretty low test scores at the time we were trying to decide what to do. But we decided to give the public school a try and have been happy with it. We ultimately didn't go with the private option for life balance reasons. To afford private for both children, I would have had to leave my part-time government job to work full-time for a law firm. Which would probably mean a lot of late nights and weekends. I thought the possible difference in education wasn't really worth not seeing my family any more. Or at the least we should give the public school a try. We've also been able to set aside money for college this way.

Regarding which is better, I see in my daughter's private summer camp that the kids are doing more advanced work there than she is during the school year, but can't help but think she'll be okay in the long run. A woman we know who had a child who couldn't read in the private school had him tested, found out he was genius level, and switched him to Fairfax County schools where he has done great, because they have more resources to deal with specialized children.

Posted by: Sam | October 11, 2006 10:08 AM

alex.mom WAKE Up!! What a narrow minded view of homeschool! Get into TODAY'S world of "every kind" of homeschool!!

Posted by: Anonymous | October 11, 2006 10:09 AM

alex.mom WAKE Up!! What a narrow minded view of homeschool! Get into TODAY'S world of "every kind" of homeschool!!

Posted by: Anonymous | October 11, 2006 10:09 AM

alex.mom WAKE Up!! What a narrow minded view of homeschool! Get into TODAY'S world of "every kind" of homeschool!!

Posted by: Anonymous | October 11, 2006 10:10 AM

Rebecca - It's really hard to know how well a particular school will work out for your child before enrolling them. Most schools look good "on paper" - they all advertise their great programs and wonderful teachers. I would strongly encourage you to talk to other parents at the school. I also like to look at things like how many enrichment courses and extra-curriculur activities there are, i.e. language and music classes, afterschool clubs and activities. Extra activities suggests that lots of outside people (be they parents or school alumni or community members) are invested in the school.

Posted by: TakomaMom | October 11, 2006 10:11 AM

I considered private school for my son when he was going to enter kindergarten. We looked at the public school in our Montgomery County neighborhood and compared it to two private schools in the area. One was parochial, and the other was a private independent school. The tuition at the parochial school was about 6K, if I remember correctly, and the private independent school were running between 15 and 20K per year (depending on the grade). Ultimately, we decided that it was just unwise to spend so much money on private school when the local public school could provide a very decent education for free. We are lucky to live in Montgomery County where the school system is very well funded. The public school facilities are great, and although the private independent schools had a larger campus, they did not have comparable better libraries, computer centers, or classrooms. I am an active participant in my son's education, and I am satisfied that the public elementary school does a good job of teaching the basics. My son is only in the beginning of first grade and is reading very well, and loves math as well. I also have put him in after school enrichment science an languages classes which each meet once a week. We may alternate these with music as well in the coming months. I pay extra for these enrichment classes, but the classes are not very expensive and very worth it. If I were paying 15K in tuition a year, we would be strapped for money and would not be able to afford extra enrichment programs or much else for that matter. As it is, I feel that the public school does a good job with the basics, and we can pay a little extra for other things. Plus, I like the public elementary school. The teachers are great, the principal knows all the students by name, and my son is happy and thriving there. Plus, it is nice to have all his little friends in our immediate neighborhood. It feels like a real community.

Posted by: Rockville | October 11, 2006 10:12 AM

Some things to ask and look for.

Administration. How long has the principal been there? How long was the last one? Quick turnover is usually not a good sign.

Teachers. How long have they been there? The average career length of a teacher is 6 years, or so I have read. Do they seem happy? If you look at the stats on WaPo, you can get a snapshot of this for the schools in this area (md/dc/va).

Pta. 10 over involved parents or 40 spread the wealth parents?

You might shoot me for this, but I will say it anyway. Free lunch percentages. High percentages might mean nothing except you live in a high cost of living area and that x amount of kids QUALIFY for free or reduced lunch. That doesn't mean an impoverished school with violence, but it could.

Bathrooms. Are they clean, stocked, free of graffiti? Try right after lunch. My kids hate to use the bathroom at their school. Having seen them, I cant say I blame them.

Watch the busses. Loading, unloading, how the school day begins. What looks like chaos could be chaos, but it could also just be volume.

Posted by: to 2 preschoolers | October 11, 2006 10:14 AM

Although our public schools need work, lots of work, Albuquerque, New Mexico is a wonderful place to live. I'm interested in the comments posted here, especially about urban areas and schools, but as I read, there are a couple hundred hot air balloons floating by my office window. It's Balloon Fiesta time. Albuquerque also has a relatively low cost of living, short commute times, perfect weather, skiing within a 45 minute drive, golf courses and parks, loads of walking and bike paths, bicycle lanes on nearly all roads, and is amazingly familiy friendly. For a small city, there are museums, art, culture, a great zoo, a children's museum, and plenty of weekend cultural events. We do miss out on some big city conveniences and amenitites, but the trade off is worth it. We deal with the schools and provide extra educational opportunities for our kids. The pace of life here is slower and more relaxed - and so are we. I just had to make a pitch for our city and for small and mid-sized areas everywhere.

Posted by: ABQ | October 11, 2006 10:16 AM

At our public school, instrumental (both strings and band)music is free of charge, twice a week group lessons ( rental of instrument on you). Starting in 3rd grade strings, 4thgrade band. You still need private weekly lessons, but it has been great for our kids. They have more motivation to practice because every other day they have a lesson!

Posted by: Rockville | October 11, 2006 10:20 AM

When you spoke of your 9-year old fidgeting in class-- yes, probably bored in class. Other factors: how is his grade? Is he able to understand the class?
Many kids act up because they might not be able to hear or see the teacher so well, which would not be helped by medication but rather getting eyes and ear tested and appropriate services.

Another factor: does your kid get in fights? Is he unpopular inn school? Those two factors combined with fidgeting MIGHT point to attention deficit issues; gives more support to this idea.

Is he the highest-energy kid in PE class? Does the school have recess or PE daily?

I remember back in elementary school we only had PE 2 or 3 times a week. If the teacher seriously doesn't have enough collborative activities that allow kids to move around a bit, many kids will fidget a bit.

And punishment is an ineffective tool anyway, certainly in the level that teachers are allowed to mete out nowadays, especially if he had a crush on the teacher anyway.

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 11, 2006 10:24 AM

Hey Albuquerque,
Got any jobs?

Posted by: TakomaMom | October 11, 2006 10:27 AM

I'm with ABC, this is a question for those moms priveliged enough to be able to afford private school. Congrats on being able to afford it, but what about those who can't? Does anybody think wealthy parents have a social duty to support (and fight for the improvement of) public schools? I understand that it's a parent's responsibility to do what is best for her children, but what about other children whose parents don't have as many resources? Do they not deserve the same educational opportunites? The middle class (what's left of it) is probably the most powerful group in or society, in terms of effecting change. Perhaps we should start thinking about what's best for all children, not just our own.

Posted by: mm | October 11, 2006 10:27 AM

Our child goes to a private school in DC. We are one of a handful of financial aid recipients, although we do still pay a hefty fee and have made many financial sacrifices to pay our part. The school has a 3-week winter break (1 to 2 weeks longer than the local public schools), a 1-week spring break (same as the public schools), and many extended weekends (holidays + teacher professional days). The school offers camp during the longer breaks and the summer, and if you get financial aid for school, it carries over to the camps at the same percentage. The camps are perfectly fine for caretaking while parents work, but they aren't particularly well attended because so many of the wealthier kids take extended vacations and/or have a stay-at-home mom.

Posted by: dc | October 11, 2006 10:28 AM

my two cents on the original topic....why isn't it okay to consider what works for the parent as well as what works for the kid? There are posts here acknowledging the difficulty of evaluating schools beforehand, etc. Combine this with the difficulty of paying bills, etc. people just choose the option that fits their personal situation, including all those involved (e.g., the parents and the child(ren)'s needs). To the poster saying the child comes first...I say the FAMILY comes first.

Also, in Chapel Hill, NC...we pay very high property taxes. We've done private schools before both in the US and in other countries. When we moved back to the US, we chose Chapel Hill specifically on the strength of their public schools. Taxes are deductible. School fees are not. Finally, public schools reflect community priorities. Higher taxes reflect public support for the schools.

Posted by: dotted | October 11, 2006 10:28 AM

Move over, I'm coming.

Posted by: to Abq | October 11, 2006 10:29 AM

Father of 4, your son sounds like mine. But yes, my son does get a very low dose medication that I have been reducing the dose of slowly. What made me medicate (a decision that has caused much anguish)? My son had a lack of social success, and it was making him anxious and unhappy. While I'd like to someday take him off completely (and I'm headed in that direction, since the ADHD in my family calms as the kids grow up), his happiness, success and well-being mean more to me than how I feel about meds. The key is whether your child's personality traits, or "wiring," is negatively impacting his education.

In posting above, I forgot list all of my son's issues: in addition to ADHD and the behavioral issues (in short, he gets aggressive periodically), he also has what may be soon diagnosed as sensory issues, AND he has social/emotional delays. The last issue, and possibly the sensory issues, are what I suspect are causing the behavioral issues, and the ADHD is secondary. He's made a lot of improvement, but I refuse to let the school system talk me into medicating him into submission. And at this point, they know better!

If you refuse to medicate your child, you can't be charged with child neglect in my opinion, DEPENDING ON CIRCUMSTANCES. For instance, if your child is bipolar and you refuse to medicate, and resulting harm to the child could be proven, then I'd think Child Protective Services may have a case. But that doesn't sound like your situation. Just stay in the school's butt.

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | October 11, 2006 10:29 AM

All through elementary school my son's teachers complained about his behavior. He talked too much, acted up etc... A couple of them suggested I have him evaluated for ADHD. Well, I had him evaluated twice. Both doctors said he did not have ADHD. He was just a typical active little boy who had trouble sitting down and keeping his mouth shut. He settled down in high school and did very well. He is now a happy successful college sophomore. On the issue of schools, my son went mostly to Dept of Defense Dependent Schools overseas and then a private high school in Maryland. He only went to public schools for a couple of years (in Texas) and I wasn't happy with them. His private HS cost me plenty but I feel it was worth it. We were living on Bolling AFB at the time and since there is no school on base he would have had to go to Baloo High School in the District. Ha! never! There school moto was "we're trying to do better"

Posted by: Melt | October 11, 2006 10:29 AM

My son is not old enough yet, but we've definitely thought about it. My husband went to private and I went to Fairfax County Public Schools, so we see both sides of the debate. I know that everyone thinks Ffx is so fabulous, but really I don't think my math education there was good at all (and I went to the top ranked school in the county according to the Mathews "challenge index.") We will definitely buy a house in a good school district so that we have the option to decide on public vs. private. Now I'm wondering if we do go private, when is the best time? Should we just wait for HS or put him in private school in elem?

Posted by: Dylan's Mum | October 11, 2006 10:30 AM

I just wanted to note how well everyone is behaving today. Well done, all of us!

Posted by: Anonymous | October 11, 2006 10:33 AM

I went to FCPS schools, one of the better schools and I never had problems with everything up to precalculus level. I had one good teacher for 2 years, and then I did have one truly medicore math teacher, fortunately I was able to learn anyway.

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 11, 2006 10:34 AM


Your comments about homeschooling were so insightful. For years, I've wondered: How can kids learn the all-important lessons about getting along, interacting, sharing, helping others, making friends, trying new things, etc., when they're isolated in their own families during their formative years?

The answer is: They can't.

Posted by: pittypat | October 11, 2006 10:35 AM

I guess I am totally "old school" (teehee) but what is a charter school? Is it like a magnet school? Charter schools seem to be a new thing. (The little dude is too little for school yet so I haven't integrated into the school aged parental set yet.) Would some one explain the difference, please?

Also do they have standardized testing in non-public schools? I know that our current administration is in love with standardize testing but don't know if it is for public schools only. I think standardize testing only shows that a student is good (or bad) at taking a standardized test. It makes me think of foreign grad. students who took the TOEFL (english language exam), got an almost perfect score yet could speak no English. They just teach to the test, which doesn't reflect knowledge but rather test taking ability.

As for my home schooling opinions, my sister home schools her three children. She has had many problems finding non-Christian circulumn.

Posted by: alex. mom | October 11, 2006 10:35 AM

Re. ADHD and medication, or lack of medication, our pediatrician agreed with us about not medicating but he suggested some supplements and dietary changes. These were not a panacea but did "take the edge off" and help our child focus a bit more. Some of the medications have a side effect of making children more emotional which may make some social issues more difficult rather than less difficult. Our son's teacher had the class do several stand up exercises each day which were designed to increase focus and encourage mind/body coordination. Some ADHD symptoms have been linked to vision issues so it's worth having a thorough eye exam too. These are small things that helped us and our son manage his ADHD better. We've stressed the routine too because he become disorganized and distracted when his routine is disrupted. My fear for my impulsive and outgoing child is that teaching him to "take a pill" to feel different in elementary school will set him up to be more likely to try other "pills" to feel different later in life.

Posted by: SS | October 11, 2006 10:37 AM

To Dylan's Mum

Hard to say when is the best time. I've known people who kept their children in private school then, if they scored on standardized tests high enough to go into the GT program in Fairfax, moved them to public school at that time. Another consideration may be at what age is it harder for children to transition. I went to private school 2nd through 5th grade, and had some difficulty transitioning to public school in 6th grade. Academically I did great because my private school had a more advanced curriculum than the public one. But sometimes it's harder at age 11 to make new friends than at a younger age. A lot of that will depend on the child. It's not like kids don't switch school for other reasons, such as a parent having to move for his or her job.

Posted by: Sam | October 11, 2006 10:37 AM

"I just wanted to note how well everyone is behaving today. Well done, all of us!"

Thanks Mom!

Posted by: Jr. | October 11, 2006 10:39 AM

To Takomamom, Albuquerque has a large tech industry and we have Sandia Labs and Los Alamos National Labs as well as many Dept. of Defense type jobs. The University of New Mexico is here so many academic jobs too. Not so much in the financial sector but that seems to be growing too. Legal jobs are harder because the local law school grads tend to fill those slots. There is a huge need for additional medical professionals here too.

Too cool - a new balloon this year just floated by which is the pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness. We've been here almost 6 years now and we're never leaving!

Posted by: ABQ | October 11, 2006 10:41 AM

I'd just like to respond to the poster above who suggested that this is an issue only for priviliged parents who can afford private schools. I have to disagree. My ex-husband's parents were quite poor. They lived in a poor "bario" in San Antonio, but they managed to scrape together enough to send all three of their kids to Catholic School. I was a single mother, enlisted person in the military making about $30,000 per year and I managed to come up with the money to send my son to private high school. It's difficult but If you are in a position where you don't believe your local public schools are up to par (or safe), you'll find a way.

Posted by: Melt | October 11, 2006 10:43 AM

Can I ask dumb, slightly off-topic question?

Thinking of having kids in teh next couple of years. How much should we expect in child care expenses (in DC) if both of us work full time?

Posted by: No Children Yet | October 11, 2006 10:43 AM

Thinking of having kids in teh next couple of years. How much should we expect in child care expenses (in DC) if both of us work full time?

For full time child care in a daycare setting, probably about 1200 - 1500 a month. Maybe more.

Posted by: Rockville | October 11, 2006 10:47 AM

Calvin Trillin, one of my favorite authors and an apparently wonderful father, recommended to that you pick a school where you feel most at home with the other parents (if you are lucky enough to have a choice). It does make sense- presumably you have shared values and if something about the school troubles you, you will have allies.

Posted by: K Kelley | October 11, 2006 10:48 AM

Well, I went to school with Calvin Trillin's daughters and am happy he felt comfortable with my parents!

Posted by: Downtown | October 11, 2006 10:49 AM

"Aren't all school districts in the U.S. funded by property taxes? "

Not really. Oregon's school system is funded mostly (something like 90%?) by the state income tax. It was not this way before 1990 when the state voted in a property tax limitation measure which drastically reduced the amount of property taxes that go to the schools, with the promise of "don't worry, we'll fund the schools by other means." 16 years later we have huge class sizes, drastically reduced services, and a real problem with school financing.

Regarding the question of the day - I am a proponent of public education and would not choose private school unless there was a really extraordinary circumstance regarding one of my children. And even then, I would likely choose to homeschool them instead.

I agree with the posters that "it's not about what conveniences the parent, it's about what's best for the child." And I'll add "and it's about what's best for the community and all children."

The only difference that I've seen between public and private re: volunteering and the SAHP's ruling the roost is that private schools generally *require* volunteerism and public schools do not. Working parents have to figure out when they can volunteer at a private school - so I would imagine that their work is more "behind the scenes" while the SAHPs are more visible during the school day. But really, the same thing happens at our public schools, so I don't see a difference as far as the involvement of the SAHP vs. the WOHP.

Oh, and our PTA meetings and concerts are always in the evening. :o) (Except that now that music at the elementary school level has been cut again, I've been told that the concerts might have to be during the day if at all, because there's not funding to pay for the music teacher to hold evening concerts. Sigh.)

Posted by: momof4 | October 11, 2006 10:50 AM

No Children Yet. It depends on what type of care you want?

We found an in-home daycare center which would cost $400 per month for our first (when she was an infant). We opted for a professional daycare center which costs about $1,250 a month for infants. You could probably pay more than that for professional and maybe less than $400 for in-home.

Posted by: Father of 2 | October 11, 2006 10:52 AM

Pittypat, please don't assume that all homeschooled kids are isolated. For those that do isolate their kids, it's terrible-- and one of the things that scares me about homeschooling is that *everything* depends on what the parent provides. But you can homeschool your kids with little isolation if you live in a vibrant community and/or make a real effort to socialize your kids through homeschooling groups, playdates, etc.

My neighbor across the street is 15 and has been homeschooled (by a liberal secular family) since he was 6. He is one of the most well-adjusted teenage boys I have ever met, with a nice girlfriend, no sullenness, great communication skills, and a genuine kindness for younger kids. I would say he is several years ahead in maturity from other boys his age. Again, I'm not saying that this is the case for all homeschooled kids, but neither can we make an all-encompassing statement about the isolation of homeschooling.

Posted by: Ms L | October 11, 2006 10:53 AM

Thinking of having kids in teh next couple of years. How much should we expect in child care expenses (in DC) if both of us work full time?

Our nanny is $300 per week, but we "nanny share" with 2 other kids, so her take home pay (b4 taxes) is $900 per week. Also, we pay the employer taxes which is about another $1200 per year.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 11, 2006 10:55 AM

Considering the number of children that now reside in single parent homes and the overwhelming number of studies and data that shows they will do much worse than children from intact families, especially girls without the active participation of the father, it doesn't matter where they go,what we need to do is overhaul the family custody laws in this country and then where they go WILL matter.

Posted by: mcewen | October 11, 2006 10:58 AM

We live in Bethesda, MD (Pyle-Whitman district) and would have to be idiots to send our kids to private school. Our schools are among the best in the nation. I have a really hard time swallowing $80K cash **per year** for all three kids to be in elementary school in a private school.

Posted by: Bethesda | October 11, 2006 11:02 AM

For all the folks knocking on Leslie for considering convenience to parents when choosing schooling for their children, why wouldn't this be a factor to consider? One school may be only marginally better than another in terms of the kids' daily education and experience, but, if it allows the parents more time with their children overall or allows them to be more involved with school, that could make a big difference in the long run.

Posted by: MECM | October 11, 2006 11:03 AM

To mcewen:

What do you mean by overhauling the custody laws? It's unclear from your posting what exactly you are implying should be the change.

Posted by: ABC | October 11, 2006 11:03 AM

"Does anybody think wealthy parents have a social duty to support (and fight for the improvement of) public schools? ... Perhaps we should start thinking about what's best for all children, not just our own."

Hear, hear!

I don't have kids and I'm not wealthy by a long shot, but I've never resented paying taxes that would support and improve public education. (I did grow up in a family of teachers, so there's some bias here.)

That's why the whole voucher idea makes me crazy. I want my tax dollars going to the public schools that regular kids attend, not supporting private or parochial schools just because those parents don't like the public schools their kids attend.

Likewise, I do think that wealthy parents, while certainly free to send their children to elite and expensive schools, have a duty to support and improve public education so that every kid can have a shot at graduating from high school.

Posted by: pittypat | October 11, 2006 11:05 AM

For those pointing out the socialization differences between home-schooled and out-of-home-schooled, I would also point out that there are huge socialization differences between kids in large/urban high schools vs small/rural according to what I've heard from college admins.

With some regional exceptions (e.g. huge but rural Texas high schools) universities sometimes find that start students from rural high schools often feel overwhelmed by the "change of lifestyle" they see at an urban college/university. They get distracted by the trappings of the city and their grades suffer. (Private Universities do lots of data mining between the admissions and registrar departments.)

Posted by: Proud Papa | October 11, 2006 11:07 AM

I agree that tax dollars should support all public schools but I'd like it if there were more accountability for school systems to provide annual reports to the public. There seems to be too much administrative cost and too little going to the schools too often. In my experience, friends who support the idea of vouchers do so because of their discontent with the way the public schools are run more than resentment over their property taxes.

Posted by: SS | October 11, 2006 11:10 AM

The PTA biddies are like some people in high school. They are condescending, cruel, and insecure. They do it to because they have no life and they want to give their kid a one up on the competition. They don't do it to help all the kids. A teacher or other administrator should be an advisor to the PTA and not let the "mean girls" control everything.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 11, 2006 11:10 AM

I wouldn't trade my public school education for anything. I went to school with kids from over 80 different countries; kids whose families were on public assistance and kids whose families were rich; kids who would go on to have multiple degrees and kids who would drop out of high school. No, everyone was not best friends and there were problems at times. But considering that my college and law school were less than diverse, I am so grateful that I had that early exposure to people of all types of backgrounds. Little kids naturally accept other people's differences - it's only as they get older and socialized to think that differences are bad that they begin to judge. I really do believe that public school helps children feel comfortable with people who may not be exactly like them, and this stays with them.

Posted by: Charlottesville | October 11, 2006 11:11 AM

Likewise, I do think that wealthy parents, while certainly free to send their children to elite and expensive schools, have a duty to support and improve public education so that every kid can have a shot at graduating from high school.

Nope, other people's kids are not my responsibility.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 11, 2006 11:13 AM

O.k. so my parents were PTA presidents (at some point in each of my schools.) Does that mean the other parents hated them and they were bullies?! I don't think they excluded anyone who wanted to participate (don't think they had time, both worked full time...)

Posted by: Anonymous | October 11, 2006 11:14 AM

Funny that this topic came up today. Just yesterday we met with our school's principal to discuss the K program to see if we should keep him in the private preschool/school he is in now vs. the local public elementary school. We live in Bethesda so why are we even considering a private school? Well, if you scratch under the surface not all public elementary schools are the same. Burning Tree or Cold Spring are stellar (also mentioned by somebody today) but our local ES is not that great and extremely crowded. First hand report from a mom whose son goes to this school is that without daily parent volunteers the teachers would have really hard time controlling 25+ kids. And how much individual attention would our normal child get? Unless he is a troublemaker or learning disabled, probably none because there will be other kids who need it more. So, as ironic as it is, we are leaning towards a private school at least for elementary school. Another thing I am hearing is that NCLB, a law that stemmed from good intentions, is actually forcing the teachers to "teach the test" as opposed to teach for the sake of learning. Having said that, I am not 100% decided on a private school and our financial resources are only part of an issue. Unless a private school has something unique to offer, like a language program or a unique teaching method (like a British School or Lycee Rochambeau), I really can't justify it. With private school tuition of $22K a year, only cerain families can afford it. We could manage tuition but that's about it and I don't want my kids comparing themselves to others and feel that they are disadvantaged.

Posted by: undecided | October 11, 2006 11:18 AM

Re: costs. Depends a lot on the care type you choose.

Our wonderful nanny comes to our home for 34 hours per week, and we pay about $450 per week, plus overtime when we need it, plus 2 weeks paid vacation per year and Xmas bonus.

Posted by: Child care costs | October 11, 2006 11:19 AM

Ms L -- Ok, fair enough. I guess that homeschooling, like so many other things, can be good or bad depending on the circumstances.

I'd like to ask, though, what are people's reasons for homeschooling? (And I mean this question seriously -- not rudely.) Apart from certain obvious circumstances -- religious beliefs, residence in a poor school system, etc. -- what causes parents to decide to keep their kids at home? I imagine it's a variety of factors, but I'm interested to know.

Also, do parents really feel that they can better educate their children than trained teachers can?

I really am curious to know.

Posted by: pittypat | October 11, 2006 11:21 AM

Private care is best for me now. My daughter's Montessori school has before and after care, as well as summer care.

Posted by: Olney Working Mom | October 11, 2006 11:21 AM

Private school is best for me now. My daughter's Montessori school has before and after care, as well as summer care.

Posted by: Olney Working Mom | October 11, 2006 11:21 AM

Can I just say the self-involvement of this post really stands out in comparison with today's article about the mom whose son died in Iraq? A little perspective, people.

Posted by: Elena | October 11, 2006 11:21 AM

Other kids may not be your responsibility but they may become your problem. An ill educated society does not bode well for anyone. Would you rather a disadvantaged child be educated with tax dollars or pay for a prison system later on? I am not implying that poor people are criminals. Just that it takes a village to raise a child and create a better world for everyone involved. Including YOUR children.

Posted by: foamgnome | October 11, 2006 11:21 AM

Can I ask a question? Why is it that everyone who posts on this board who has a child with ADHD, said child is also allegedly of above average intelligence? If your kids are so understimulated, why don't you skip them a grade?

Posted by: Erin | October 11, 2006 11:22 AM

Can I ask dumb, slightly off-topic question?

Thinking of having kids in teh next couple of years. How much should we expect in child care expenses (in DC) if both of us work full time?

Posted by: No Children Yet | October 11, 2006 10:43 AM

In the Vienna/McLean area, daycare centers run $1100 to $1400 a month for infant care. It is VERY HARD to find infant care. Be prepared to get on a waiting list while pregnant, too! The daycares that charge a fee for being on the waiting list have fewer waiting. The free wait lists run about 100+ people. Your question is not dumb at all!! In fact, I wish I had known to ask it when I was pregnant! Finding infant daycare in this area is a surreal experience, IMHO.

Posted by: alex. mom | October 11, 2006 11:22 AM

Not the original question, but since nearly all the people who have commented on the ADHD-medication issues are priding themselves on not medicating their children, I have to make the opposite point. I paid too much attention to too many of these comments for years. Sure, all active kids don't need to be medicated. But it really is helpful for some. My daughter benefits enormously from ADHD medication. It's not just that she's less disruptive, although that's certainly true. She is learning more because she can pay attention. She communicates better. She's not acting out behaviorally because of frustration with (reasonable) demands that she wants to meet but can't. It is the right thing for her, and I deeply regret the several years we spent struggling with behavioral techniques that weren't enough for her. So be careful about the anti-medication snobbery.

Posted by: OtterB | October 11, 2006 11:24 AM

Pittypat - I was homeschooled for part of my youth and my parents' decision was based largely on the lack of a good school where we were and the fact that they were both college professors previously. My parents tried very hard to give me a well rounded education that encouraged a love of learning, unlike many of my traditionally-schooled peers. In fact, I only had one year of high school and then went on to college at 16. As for socialization skills, I would say that I was always a bit like a mini-adult. I probably tended to relate to older children and adults better throughout my life since I spent more time with adults. However, that was not neccessarily a bad thing. I never went through some of the more self-destructive phases many kids go through. Homeschooling can indeed be very good if done properly, the key is to invest a lot of time making sure the child receives plenty of diverse social opportunities. It can also be a disaster in the hands of the wrong parents.

Posted by: TS | October 11, 2006 11:28 AM

I know lots of grown up homeschooled kids, and I have to agree with Ms. L. They are some of the most well rounded, respectful people/young adults I know.

Respect for authority, etc seem to be huge.

Went to HS with some homeschoolers that transferred in HS and have to admit, lots of social inadequacies.

Also, my niece and nephews are now being homeschooled and maybe I'm biased but I think they are some of the smartest I know.

I think most of it depends on the parents personalities. Homeschooling is a lot more popular these days.

Posted by: Lou | October 11, 2006 11:30 AM

"I'd like to ask, though, what are people's reasons for homeschooling? (And I mean this question seriously -- not rudely.) Apart from certain obvious circumstances -- religious beliefs, residence in a poor school system, etc. -- what causes parents to decide to keep their kids at home? I imagine it's a variety of factors, but I'm interested to know."

There is a growing sector of the homeschooling population who simply believes that schooling - *any* schooling - runs counter to how children learn. They simply disagree with the institution of school and believe that the best way for children (and adults, for that matter) to learn is to simply live in our world and be exposed to a lot of different ideas and situations, and to choose what it is they want to learn about. They don't "teach" their children more than facilitate their learning. If you've heard the term "unschooling" - that's what it refers to.

Most homeschooling parents will tell you that they are more qualified to teach their children than a certified teacher simply because they know their child better than any teacher ever could. Think about it this way - you taught your children to talk and to dress themselves and to ride a bike - were you less qualified to do that than a speech therapist, professional dresser, or Lance Armstrong? You also know how to read and write and presumably know the basics of addition and U.S. colonialization and what makes a plant grow...why can't you teach that to your children? Most homeschooling parents will get help when their child advances to a level (in say, math or science) that they don't feel comfortable teaching.

Posted by: momof4 | October 11, 2006 11:31 AM

I am intruiged by the "wealthy parents should think about the good of all kids, not just their own" theory. When we speak broadly about "improving education," what do we mean? Is our public education system meant to: 1) create opportunities for all who want to go to college, to be able to apply and attend? 2) mold future workers? 3) Civic indoctrination to make informed, involved citizens?

Because if it's number 1, then we need to revamp the whole system. The public high-school education system was only set up in the first part of the 20th Century (yes, requirements for high school are less than 100 years old). And the reason why public secondary schooling initally got so much support was because it was created for the civic indoctrination of poor (usually Catholic) immigrants - to make them better citizens and "Americanize" them. I don't think most people really think about what they want when they say they want to "improve schools" or that schools in wealthier parts of a state are "better schools." Better for what? Improve them toward what end? The U.S. secondary school system wasn't set up to educate kids so that every 18 year old in this country could apply to college, and I think we really need to re-evaluate what it is we expect of our public school system. Other public goods perform one, specific action. The Social Security Administration collects money and cuts checks for people. Our interstate highway system gets people from point A to point B. Now we're at a point where we expect a public school to cater to the kid with ADHD, the kid with special needs, the "genius," the regular kid, etc. What do we really want from this system?

Posted by: The original just a thought | October 11, 2006 11:32 AM

For me private school has been hand-down the only choice. Public schools are, in my view, too denatured of the arts and humanities, and the pressure of the SOLs as a mode, or approach, does not in my view nurture a LOVE of learning, which is essential to wanting to learn throughout one's life. But don't get me wrong, my life is not one of privilege or ease (yet!) I've had to apply for scholarships every year for two kids AND work major fundraising projects for the school to qualify. For an already overworked single mom (no child support, no visitation breaks from the ex) this has been ann enormous strugle. Its also tough when the married at-home moms fail not only to understand the struggles of a working single parent, but actually tell you to shut up about it, they've heard it enough that you're a single parent. Regardless, the education itself, with a focus on arts, music, group work, non-sectarian spiritual elements, lots of exercize and play in addition to academic work has nurtured my kids in a very well-rounded and joyous way that I wouldn't trade for anything. I'd just love it if I reached the point where I could pay full tuition for both, and only volunteer when it was really volunteering, not mandatory work-for-schooling. I feel fortunate to have created the situation I have, but it is difficult at times.

Posted by: Dignity for Single Parents | October 11, 2006 11:32 AM

I would like to post this particular comment anonymously, because it's personal and I'd like to keep it private. My brother was on ritalin for most of his childhood - he was prescribed it when it was fairly new, before it came with the warning labels it now carries, so my parents didn't know the potential side affects. Warning labels on ritalin (and some other ADHD meds) now include such items as: may cause stunted growth, may cause abnormal behavior, may cause psychotic behavior, can contribute to suicidal thoughts, can cause brain damage if taken in conjunction with other drugs. Well, my family got to witness firsthand these side effects in action. There is a history of drug abuse in my family, and I consider that a far more serious threat to my child's long-term well-being than academic struggles. I have never said that medication is bad or wrong for every child. It is wrong for mine, and in no way do I consider that "snobbery"

Posted by: Anonymous | October 11, 2006 11:33 AM

This debate keeps me up at night and my daughter is only 2!

I am a product of public schools in MA, but currently live in DC in an area with a terrible public school. So, if I go the public school route I will have to compete for a slot in one of the few really good charter schools, or as an out of district student... we will have to win the lottery (which is more literal than I would like to see - $24K savings per school year).

I think that it is important for the middle class to support public schools, but they have to be good schools... no body wants their child to be the guinea pig, especially if education is very important to your family.

One of my concerns with private schools despite the cost is the environment my daughter will be in... we are not wealthy, and going to school with weathly children will have her feeling diadvantages and like she is "competing" with the families with more money and always losing...

Posted by: single mom | October 11, 2006 11:33 AM

"Sure, all active kids don't need to be medicated. But it really is helpful for some."

OtterB --

Another important consideration is that medications for ADHD have come a long way from the massive doses of Ritalin routinely prescribed during the 60s through 80s. Researchers now know much more about what parts of the brain to target, and effective meds at minimum dosages are now the rule, not the exception. Long-term effects to the developing brain are part of the research focus.

Posted by: pittypat | October 11, 2006 11:34 AM

Do you want a disruption-free education, or a single-sex education, for your children?

The Maryland Constitution (8.1) says that the legislature has to set up a thorough and efficient system of free public schools. That doesn't mean that every child gets a thorough and efficient education in these public schools.

*Your* child's right to a thorough and efficient education means nothing if *my* child has the right to disrupt your child's education by making trouble in class and taking the teacher's attention away from teaching. When my brother and I were in school, there was a system of alternative public schools, staffed by tough male teachers, to which habitually disruptive children were sent so that teachers in the regular public schools could teach non-disruptive children effectively. These days, a disruptive child's right to remain in regular public school classes is protected by Federal statute (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), Federal court decisions, and Federal regulations, which the principal, the county school board, and the State Department of Education are powerless to change.

The only schools left where your child has the right not to have his education disrupted are parochial and private schools, because they still have the right to exclude disruptive children.

My brother and I attended public elementary, junior high and high schools which provided us a thorough and efficient education good enough to get us admitted to the best colleges in Canada and the United States, respectively. My niece attended Harford County public schools through middle school. When the time came for high school, my brother did not want his daughter's education interfered with by disruptive kids and dope dealing, so he sent her to Catholic school. She now has her Ph.D. and teaches in college.

Another benefit that private and parochial schools can offer is single-sex education. My father graduated from public, all-boys DeWitt Clinton High School. My mother graduated from public, all-girls Washington Irving High School. My brother and I attended coeducational public schools, although those single-sex public schools were still available.

Nowadays, public schools have to be coeducational, with few exceptions. (Baltimore has its girls-only Western High School.) Some children do better in single-sex schools, some do better in coeducational schools. My children attended a single-sex parochial school and did fine. If you think your children
will do better in single-sex schools, you'll probably have to send them to private or parochial school.

Posted by: Matt in Aberdeen | October 11, 2006 11:36 AM

4 of my parents' kids went to what you would call an elite private school in New England. Their oldest didn't. He went to a public school where avoiding a stabbing was a good day. By the time he graduated our parents could afford to take the rest of us out of the system.

We're all pretty well adjusted, intelligent, successful folks, so there is something to the self selecting idea someone brought up earlier. I was however a lot safer and a lot better prepared for the college I went to than my oldest brother was for the one he went to.

Two irrelevant points:
1. (in case he's reading), while he may be 50 times smarter than I am, I'm 100 times better looking.
2. One benefit of public school (I imagine) is that after you graduate they don't call you at home every other week asking for money...

Posted by: Prep | October 11, 2006 11:39 AM

My daughter goes to school in Montgomery Co as the boundary high school in my area (DC)is terrible... in school shootings by students?? I don't think so.

My son is in private daycare and with elementary school only a few years away I have wondered what we will do. I have condsidered charter school but they have been on a downslide as well. I have brought up homeschooling to my husband and told him if the local elementary school doesn't improve I would seriously consider becoming a SAHM and homeschool.

Posted by: 2xmami | October 11, 2006 11:41 AM

First, to OtterB -- you are absolutely right. I do medicate, but I admit I would prefer not to, and as a poster noted earlier (I think SS), my son is more emotional on the medication. I also use a natural supplement. But really, the child's success and happiness comes first, not our feelings on medication.

To Erin:

The answer is because ADHD children are very often of high intelligence. My late brother, who had ADHD, was from what I understand, near genius level. My son's IQ ranges from above average to superior. Here's the kicker -- he, w/o the attention issues, would very likely be solidly superior or above. His short attention span and hyperactivity keep him from reaching his full potential.

Also, ADHD kids tend to be immature -- so skipping a grade can make them feel even more out of step socially with their classmates. Keeping such a child in the same grade, and giving him or her higher level work may be a better solution, unless it's just not challenging enough.

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | October 11, 2006 11:43 AM

Public schools would be my preference. I attended catholic schools through middle and high school. The benefit of private school was an secure environment conducive to learning and a certain level of discipline. I did not have the challenges my nephew faced with various social pressures that many face in public schools. The private school experience was "good" but in retrospect I realize it was not the best because we lacked some resources. those endless fund raisers and call for volunteers are for a reason. Consciously, we assume private schools provide some level of advantage. Frankly, they grade to assure you will have an opportunity. in college I met kids from public schools that were outstanding. I came to realize public schools offer a quality education, you just have to be put in the effort to assure you attain it. I remember marveling at freshmen knocking out Calculus II, which I had to take the functions and analysis classes to build up for College Calculus. I had calculus in high school, just like I had Chemistry and Physics. I don't want to make excuses, but my B did not translate to the discipline required at the college level. This held true for other classes as well. Several peers from my high school reflected on that aspect, even the national honor society ones. My kids attend public school, a quality school I love. They are doing things that I never dreamed. The biggest thing is they assess and challenge these kids. Its not Montessori, but if your kid is in the 2nd and can do 4th grade math. He or she will work a that level. They have great collaborative projects and themes throughout the entire grade between all the classes where they all come together in the end. Test scores are definitely the best in the county, very high for the state and nationally.

Posted by: public school fan | October 11, 2006 11:43 AM

i have read that what makes a child successful in a particular school is parental involvement. your school may be so-so but your child can succeed in the school provided you as the parent stay involved in their work.
the idea that private school doesn't have bullying is delusional. bullying is not just a public school issue but a people issue. now, a private school may have a rule about cursing while the children are at school but i guess the question then becomes; how do the children act outside of school?

Posted by: quark | October 11, 2006 11:43 AM

Wealthy parents, or those who send their kids to private schools (at least in Maryland where there is no voucher system), pay taxes that support public schools just like anyone else. Plus, the fact that they opted out of the public school system while still paying for it makes more resources available to those who stay in it.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 11, 2006 11:46 AM

Thanks, TS and Momof4, for your comments and perspectives.

A further question, Momof4: How does a homeschooled kid -- of the type you're describing -- learn about the basic regimentation that exists in normal adult life? For instance, work deadlines, tax filing, lining up at the DMV -- the kind of stuff we all have to do even if we don't like it? If kids are permitted to follow their own interests in devising their own curriculum, how do they learn concepts like obligation?

I'm not throwing cold water here. The kind of learning environment you describe sounds truly idyllic. I'm just interested in seeing how it can work with different kinds of kids who have different kinds of needs.

Again, thanks for your answers.

Posted by: pittypat | October 11, 2006 11:47 AM

We're homeschooling my kindergartener. She's doing great. Watching her excitement as she reads a story to her sister is SO MUCH FUN. She does spend time away from me, but she doesn't seem to need 30 hours a week away. The school day is not designed by specialists in child development for the good of the child, it's what is practical to educate kids the way the state has determined is necessary.

FWIW, the whole "socialization" issue just disappears upon close examination. 20 years ago there were very few homeschoolers, and so there was a lot more isolation than there is now. In addition to playing with her sister almost all day, my little homeschooler spends a couple hours playing (just playing, its purely social time) with other kids, some homeschooled, some not, a couple times a week. If she were in public school, she'd leave home at 8:30 am, and get home again after 4. Her social time would be limited to the kids in her class, and whatever time the teacher could allow.

I'm pretty confident she gets more time socialize with other kids being out of school. She also gets to learn social skills by coming along on errands with me and seeing how adults interact. There's evidence that it is by watching adults that children learn social skills (which makes sense, how can kids who don't have social skills teach them to each other?)

I disagree that kids need to learn to deal with bullies by being trapped in a building with them for 6 hours a day. As an adult, if I meet a bully I have several choices of how to handle it. If I am threatened or assaulted, I can call the police. If it's psychological bullying, I can confront them, or avoid them, or, in the workplace, complain to their supervisor. Kids in school know that whatever they do about a bully, they're probably going to have to see that bully and his or her friends every school day, perhaps for the next 12 years. It is an entirely different situation, and not one I would wish on a child.

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | October 11, 2006 11:47 AM

"Is our public education system meant to: 1) create opportunities for all who want to go to college, to be able to apply and attend?"

yes, actually, I do think that's what our school systems should be doing. And I dorealize that that would mean overhauling the whole system. I think we should try to ensure that all children in public schools have the same access to a great education, which would mean changing the current system in which money, essentially, stays in the wealthy areas. I think the curriculum should be more challenging, teachers better paid, and support programs provided for students who struggle or have a lack of support at home. All of which I realize is probably a pipe dream. Certainly, if the most powerful families in our communities simply circumvent the problem by sending their children to private schools it's never going to happen.

Posted by: mm | October 11, 2006 11:50 AM

"When my brother and I were in school, there was a system of alternative public schools, staffed by tough male teachers, to which habitually disruptive children were sent so that teachers in the regular public schools could teach non-disruptive children effectively. These days, a disruptive child's right to remain in regular public school classes is protected by Federal statute..."

Sorry, but when did "children with disabilities" become a synonym for "disruptive children?" Last time I checked, we lived in the United States - where public education is a right for all kids, not just your perfect gifted ones. My brother has severe learning disabilities and was in the same grade as me growing up. One of my kids now has a student with autism in his class (with an aid). Kids benefit greatly by being exposed to children with different needs and of different backgrounds. I believe if done effectively, mainstreaming children with disabilities creates a better learning environment for everyone.

It also creates adults more sensitive to people different from themselves, seemingly something Matt in Aberdeen is not.

Posted by: anonymous | October 11, 2006 11:52 AM

>>Nope, other people's kids are not my responsibility.

11:13, yes, they ARE.

If you are wealthy and elite in this country, part of the reason is that this companies rules/society allowed you to be so. If you'd been born in China, you may not have been so lucky. The society contributed to your amassed wealth, so why the heck would you believe you have no obligation to the society itself?

Call it socialism if you want, but how the heck could you justify taking from society but not putting back in?

Posted by: To 11:13 | October 11, 2006 11:52 AM

Alex. mom mentioned lack of secular home school curriculm - The Calvert School in Baltimore offers one that is generally well regarded. (It is for example used by families who choose to sail around the world for a year or longer). I have no personal experience with it just thought someone out there might want the information.

Home schooled kids often participate in league sports for their PE/interaction with their peers.

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | October 11, 2006 11:54 AM

We're essentially unschoolers, and my kids know about lining up at the DMV because they've been to the DMV with me.

We're very much in the early stages here, but obligation is part of being involved in lots of worthwhile things. Adults willingly take on obligations because they're often worth it, and kids will too (eg if you want to be in a play, you have to learn your lines and attend rehearsal, or you will be replaced).

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | October 11, 2006 11:54 AM

NM - if you think the issue of creating "equal" which, in most state constitutions appears as "adequate education" for all - then I advise you to look at all of the studies done about equalizing money across school districts. Alone, it doesn't work. That's why Senator Corzine is eliminating some of the Abbott Districts and refusing to keep sending money to awful school districts when it's not money that keeps these school districts bad - it is the lack of parental involvement, overabundance of violence and underabundance of support for anything involving education by parents. Money alone doesn't do it. How do you change the culture of middle and lower middle classes to embrace and emphasize education in the same way that parents in wealthier districts do?

Posted by: The original just a thought | October 11, 2006 11:58 AM

It seems very strange to me to approach the issue of what type of education is best for your child by asking what "works best for the parent?".

Yeah, Johnny could have smaller class size and more attention, but I'd have to pick him up 15 minutes earlier so...

Doesn't that seem the ultimate in selfishness?

Posted by: Convenience Shipper | October 11, 2006 08:13 AM

This was my first reaction to this article. Lots of good things have been posted here, but the tone of the article implied that the parent's convenience/schedule was secondary to the actual education of the child.

Posted by: cmac | October 11, 2006 11:59 AM

To pittypat-

There are many different curriculums. Some more hands on for the parent, some less so. I know kids taking 6 subjects a day at home. They are just able to incorporate a "field trip" more easily.

The sense I get from the moms is that the kids are not as wiped out as when they were in school all day. They are more fun to be around, more refreshed and better well behaved. The house is even cleaner because there is a good sense of order to the whole household!

Posted by: Lou | October 11, 2006 11:59 AM

Warning! This is long!
I'm a reader from Houston, and we've chosen to send our kids to a public elementary school in one of the biggest urban districts in the nation. Before the kids came along I taught high school in HISD too, so I guess you could say I'm committed to the idea of good public education. That having been said, I do recognize that there are all sorts of caveats...

As far as advice for choosing an elementary school goes:
I think that the most important thing to do is to visit the school SEVERAL TIMES!
Do you need to schedule an appointment and be escorted to each class? Why? How do you feel about that? Do you get to sit in each class? (our school limits observation time to 15 minutes in each class b/c of the disruption visitors cause). What is the general tenor of the school? Are the teachers pleasant? Are most of the little darlings emotionally at ease(they may not smile at you because you are a stranger)?

Check out all of the grade levels. Do most of the students seem on or close to task and focused?

Arrange to visit the school during lunch, heh-heh. You can really get a feel for the school then, both in the way the students interact with each other and the way the administration expects them to behave during a time of (often) minimal direct supervision. Think about your child in that environment and your own philosophy about kid-kid interactions and adult intervention.

See kids at recess. I remember having PE every day and recess twice a day in elementary school. One of my biggest gripes is that recess here has been reduced to once a day and PE is twice a week. Kids need to run around (and I have boys...)

Ask about disciplinary procedures, both in the classroom and in THE OFFICE, as my kids say. Are you comfortable with them, no matter which side your kid is on?

Outside of the school, talk to parents of children in different grades in the school. Ask how the character of the school has changed since their kids entered. Schools are living organisms which evolve over time. Do you like the direction the school seems to be taking?

Be sure to ask everyone, teachers, parents, and principals, what they see as the biggest problem of their school. Everyone should be able to come up with an answer or they are kidding themselves.

Seek out and talk to parents who've moved their kids from one school to another, or have children in different schools. They can generally offer additional insights as they have more experience from which to draw.

Above all, once you've made a decision, prepare to BE PRESENT! So decide if you like the folks there too! You don't have to be a helicopter parent or an overly enmeshed SAHM PTO mom (been known to have those tendencies...), but make the committment to volunteer where you can and communicate with teachers early on. From my experience, our school really runs on that, and it teaches the kids that we are a big community with all of the responsibility and benefits that entails.

You'll notice that I haven't said anything about academics. Check them out, but at the elementary level, I'll wager that you, as a concerned parent, be able to make up any shortfalls. See Jay Matthews's column from late August.

Sorry so long. Good luck and happy visiting!

Posted by: Anonymous | October 11, 2006 12:00 PM

Also, has anyone seen what high school aged girls (and guys) wear? Pretty scary.

I don't have kids yet, but I don't really want them in that kind of environment all day every day.

Posted by: Lou | October 11, 2006 12:06 PM

I think it is sad that the automatic answer to the school problems is to take from the middle class and give to the lower class. While I agree that there is a problem in schools, why should the middle class have to pick up the slack for other people? Many people I know who made it to the middle class have done so with hard work and dedication. Their children should not have to suffer because other people didn't do the same thing.

Even if the middle class and the rich send their kids to private schools, they are still paying taxes in their school district.

You can't keep throwing money at a problem that is a result of lack of parental care and involvement. Here is an idea, why don't we just bus the privileged middle class to the poor schools and bus the poor in, that way in a year or two, the poor school will be better and the middle class school will be bad. Then we can start all over again.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 11, 2006 12:10 PM

Pittypath, parents can surely teach the kids better than trained professionals, not all, of course, but some. I taught my son the multiplication tables in 2 weeks, and my theory on learning math facts is that it doesn't matter if one can get the answer correct, it's how fast one can get the answer correct. Because my fear of the ADHD issue would be brought up by school counselors if he wasn't learning the material, I wrote him a computer program specifically to "drill" him in this area.

OtterB, you are the type of person I want to get information from since you've had the direct experience. What specific behaviors would qualify for ADHD? What involvement the school have in the decision? I'm not trying to brag that I'm keeping my son off medication, but he is much more active than most the other kids and he is also academically successful which I kinda like to think that my parenting effort has something to do with it. However, he seems to always end up being the ring leader of the difficult kids.

Posted by: Father of 4 | October 11, 2006 12:12 PM

Given the very high quality of the public schools in Montgomery County, my husband and I couldn't imagine paying private school tuition. It's a much better investment to save that money for college. The teachers here, given that they have technology at their fingertips, are incredibly responsive to parents; it's also very easy in middle and high school to use technology to keep track of their progress. I think affluent parents should question their "romance" with private schools to look at how many years' experience teachers have. It is also my experience, with a stepchild, that private schools tend to go easier on kids and have lower academic standards that are increasingly out of step with the college-prep environment we have here.

Posted by: Bethesda | October 11, 2006 12:18 PM

I disagree that kids need to learn to deal with bullies by being trapped in a building with them for 6 hours a day. As an adult, if I meet a bully I have several choices of how to handle it. If I am threatened or assaulted, I can call the police. If it's psychological bullying, I can confront them, or avoid them, or, in the workplace, complain to their supervisor. Kids in school know that whatever they do about a bully, they're probably going to have to see that bully and his or her friends every school day, perhaps for the next 12 years. It is an entirely different situation, and not one I would wish on a child.

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | October 11, 2006 11:47 AM >>>

My issue with home schooling is that the majority of children who home school are white, Christian and fairly well off. Life isn't full of white, Christian people so it doesn't really give you exposure to others who you will probably have to encounter in the working world. As for bullies, again school bullies will prepare your child for dealing with bullies in the work place.

But with that said, I don't care how you school your children. My sister home schools and we discuss these issues all the time. Frankly, I have my opinion and she has her's... we just agree to disagree.

Posted by: alex. mom | October 11, 2006 12:21 PM

Thanks to all for answers on homeschooling. It seems as if most of you are using it in ways that really benefit your kids.

One other question. What about parents who homeschool for religious reasons -- e.g., don't want kids learning evolution, human reproduction, etc. Are their kids getting the kind of well-rounded education that secular homeschooling provides?

Posted by: pittypat | October 11, 2006 12:22 PM

I think it is funny that everyone keeps bringing up ADHD as a warning bell to educators. My DD is only 2 1/2 and her preschool (private) are concerned that she day dreams so much. She spends a fair amount of time, during circle time, lounging around and sucking her thumb. But the funny thing is, she is right on track with her cognitive milestones. Sometimes I think these educators make a problem out of nothing. If a kid isn't exactly a text book example of the age and level of understanding, they have a problem with it. The county spent tons of money and time testing my daughter last year (at the tax payers expense), just to let me know she is normal. She does have an obvious speech delay and we are all working on that. But I did not need a degree in education or psychology to know that she had a speech delay and some pronunciation problems. Now, I will say I am very impressed with the Fairfax county school system. They seem to have a lot of resources to deal with these issues. But sometimes, I think the "old" fashion way of letting children develop as they are ready more realistic. The things they came home and told me were problems were crazy. Like she doesn't like finger painting. Oh no, she must have sensory intergration issues. She sometimes mimics Angelina Ballerina by dancing on her toes. Oh no she needs occupational therapy. I am not trying to down play any of the issues that some children have. And I am very grateful that the county has these services and offers them readily. I just think with my limited knowledge of my own kid, she is just a healthy normal kid with a mild speech delay. No need for all these test or services.

Posted by: foamgnome | October 11, 2006 12:24 PM

I walked the walk with a good friend who fought the teachers who were insisting she medicate her ADHD son for two years. She finally gave in, gives him a low dose for school, and doesn't medicate on weekends. He is essentially not medicated in the evenings, as the dose wears off, and is gone by then. There are not supposed to be any permanent effects to the brain, when the medication wears off, it's gone. Watch out, different doctors will tell you different things, and even give different diagnoses. I think the time to medicate is when the child is feeling bad about themselves, or when the other kids start to get really annoyed. I've volunteered in the classroom alot over the years, and seen kids who were very obnoxious and disruptive become calm and happy, and fit in better socially when medicated.

Public v. Private
not an easy answer. all schools are different. had my kids in catholic elementary, switched to a very good public school. public has better math and language instruction, and multiple teachers aides to help with the more disruptive students. less bullying at the public school than at the catholic one too.

Posted by: experienced mom | October 11, 2006 12:28 PM

"I believe if done effectively, mainstreaming children with disabilities creates a better learning environment for everyone."

But how effectively is this being done? I worry about mainstreaming a lot, and not because I'm not "sensitive to people different from themselves." I have a personal, painful experience from mainstreaming, which occurred when I was in middle school. A recently mainstreamed boy with serious problems was given a terrible time by other students (the worst case was when he was told he had "the Devil" in him and had to beat it out of himself. He took it very seriously). By the end of the year this boy, who seemed sweet at the beginning of the year, was sexually harrassing girls and fondling them. I was stuck in homeroom with him, frequently without a teacher present, and it was terrifying.

This was more than a decade ago, but my aunt retired early last year, after almost three decades of teaching mostly because of the terrible burdens on her with mainstreamed students. One of them was autistic and required constant intervention, to the point that she was not able to teach effectively. She was not allowed to leave her children unsupervised (that's one things that has changed since I was in school!), so when this boy needed to use the bathroom she let him go with a hall pass, just like she did for all the other children. He didn't return, and she had to contact the office. They found him in the bathroom, banging out his two front teeth on the paper towel dispensor.

I'm skeptical that much has changed in the "effectiveness" of mainstreaming since I was a child, especially in the poorer school districts.

Posted by: Ms L | October 11, 2006 12:30 PM

Private school alum, public school mom -

I'm still struggling whether to try for private school (would need financial aid and loans!) or stick with public schools into the higher grades where class sizes balloon.

For me the key difference is not the school, but the peer group. I'm pretty lazy, frankly, but since my private school had strict admissions, I didn't have friends or role models who could make it ok for me to be a slacker. Otherwise I'm pretty sure I would have gotten in with a non-academic crowd and messed up chances for college etc. Sure, if my kid is movitated, he can do great in the public schools - but I also see a lot of peer pressure from kids who are not motivated.

Posted by: Still Conflicted | October 11, 2006 12:31 PM

Pittypat - Having been homeschooled, I grew up knowing several of the children who were homeschooled for religious reasons. I think that the degree of fanaticism in the religious beliefs has a lot to do with the outcome. I don't want to offend anyone, but I certainly did meet some children whose education truly frightened me. Anything their parents didn't like or agree with, they simply weren't given the oppotunity to learn. Including basic things such as all people (and religions) are equal, women don't have to be subserviant, etc. Like I said earlier, done properly, homeschooling can be a wonderful alternative. In the wrong hands, it is merely indoctrination.

Posted by: TS | October 11, 2006 12:33 PM

Frequently (obviously not always) private schools have fewer requirements for their teachers. I had several friends in college who ended up teaching. The ones who taught at public schools were education majors who had spent a year student teaching and had teaching certificates. Another friend was a classics major. Within a year, he was teaching middle school biology at an extremely expensive private school.

Posted by: Charlottesville | October 11, 2006 12:38 PM

"My issue with home schooling is that the majority of children who home school are white, Christian and fairly well off. Life isn't full of white, Christian people so it doesn't really give you exposure to others who you will probably have to encounter in the working world. As for bullies, again school bullies will prepare your child for dealing with bullies in the work place."

Alex.mom- I actually really enjoy this kind of debate, so I don't mean this in a snarky way at all.

First of all, in my area (and yes I admit I chose my neighborhood-- had to consider my husband's commute), the public schools aren't very diverse. My homeschooling group is actually quite a bit more diverse than her class probably would have been (and yes there is economic diversity-- I don't live in the Washington area, and people don't have to be rich to afford to homeschool here).

Secondly-- can you support your argument about bullies at all? I hear people say that a lot, and I just don't see why they believe it. To me, dealing with bullies as an adult is entirely different than when I was bullied as a kid. As a kid I learned to keep my head down; as an adult I know I don't have to tolerate that kind of behavior. The skills don't transfer, IME.

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | October 11, 2006 12:41 PM

"Does anybody think wealthy parents have a social duty to support (and fight for the improvement of) public schools? ... Perhaps we should start thinking about what's best for all children, not just our own."

Yes I do.

Paying taxes is good, but sending your kids to the public school and making sure that your kids GET the education you are paying for is important - because it spills over for all kids.

Money helps, but is not the deciding factor in what makes schools good.

Otherwise DC, which spends more per child than most school districts, would have the top students in the country.

Posted by: RoseG | October 11, 2006 12:42 PM

I grew up in public schools and was always adamantly pro-public school, unless we thought we would be living in a place where the schools were crap. We landed in Mongtomery Country. I started looking more closely at the local public school when my daughter turned 4, because I discovered that when we bought our house where we could afford, all of our neighbors sent their kids to Catholic school. We wouldn't have sent our kids to any religious school (just not our thing), and I wondered what it would be like for her to literally not have any friends in our neighborhood who went to the same school.

When I visited the school I discovered great programs for kids who did not have English as a first language, extra tutoring help, and loads of other programs designed for kids who needed help to get to "grade level." None of these applied to my daughter. I wondered what happened to the kids who were already at grade level.

The discussion became unneccesary when we soon moved overseas. Our company pays 75% of private school tuition for both of our kids (now 4 and 7). We have to pay the other 25%. Not cheap and I'm still paying MD taxes (but that's another post!) They've been lucky enough to have great teachers so far. They are in the British system and have learned to read quite early.

I will be curious to see where they fall when we eventually move back to the states. I won't look to send them to private school, but wouldn't automatically rule it out any more either.

We don't have much choice here given the options, and while we are happy with the teachers, the administration leaves a lot to be desired. Given e-mails and phone calls with friends in the US, no matter where you go, at some level it's what you make of it.

We have lots of stay-at-home moms. Most maintain a normal involvement level but there are always a few who seem to take things to a ridiculous level.

Posted by: overseas_mom | October 11, 2006 12:42 PM

Fo4, not sure I would make the case for medication in your kid's case. But dietary changes can help.

If it was real ADDHD, first thing to check out is sleep disorders. Snoring or other causes insufficient sleep in a kid can cause ADDHD. It also worsens bipolar symptoms, incidentally.

Treat the snoring etc. and the problem improves drastically. I have kin with a kid who is impossible if he's not slept enough.

Nutritional overview: How much processed food? Anything with dyes? Sometimes people with allergies to seafood can react adversely to careengan, a commonly used "vegetable gelatin" and food dye in many processed food.

What oils do you use for cooking? Canola? Olive? Hopefully NOT corn or soybean oils.

Again, the ratio of essential fatty acids are important. Some saturated fat from meat is fine, but the oils are important to get in the right balance.

Does your kid complain of any kind of sensitivity to ANYTHING in the household? Could be a clue.

He sounds healthy as a horse, but any kind of chronic complaint-- frequent colds, ear infections, gut problems, joint pain, etc, is also a possible clue. Kids who don't feel good simply can't sit still.

I know you probably don't have any "white sugar" poison in large quantities for your kids given that you're a type I diabetic and your wife's a RN.

However, school might be a different story. Also, not everybody can tolerate fruit equally. I tried an ADA diet and the high levels of fruit made my energy and mental swings worse.

Just a few ideas. Generally the typical ADDHD diet avoids white sugar, caffeine, dyes, increases healthy fat ratio, and food intolerance is also investigated. I've heard wheat and dairy allergies may be a factor for some.

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 11, 2006 12:48 PM

'Also, has anyone seen what high school aged girls (and guys) wear? Pretty scary'

my daughters don't dress like that, because they are modest, thank goodness. they are stylish and their clothes are snug, but their breasts are covered. Some of the girls look like their breasts are about to pop out of their shirts, and most of the breast skin is exposed. My son can't concentrate in school and I don't know how the male teachers deal with it. The amazing thing is these girls leave their homes and jump out of their parents cars dressed like this. What are the parents thinking?
And yes, there are still two types of girls in high school. None of the slutty looking ones were nominated for homecoming princess. The boys know which girls will have sex, as advertised by what the girls wear (or don't wear!) to school.
I guess my kids tell me too much.

Posted by: experienced mom | October 11, 2006 12:48 PM

It is well known that bullying can be extremely harmful to children-- causing depression, poor self-esteem, and other negative consequences that can reach into adulthood. This is why so many schools have instituted antibullying policies.

The idea that it's good to expose your children to destructive behavior when they are most vulnerable and are the least defenseless is abhorrent to me.

Posted by: Bully for you | October 11, 2006 12:49 PM

right, check out the feingold diet. yellow dye made my son crazy in elementary school, and he craved it. Cheetos and orange soda, anyone?

Posted by: experienced mom | October 11, 2006 12:52 PM


Posted by: experienced mom | October 11, 2006 12:53 PM

Fo4, I second Wilbrod in suggesting looking into diet. The 7-year-old son of a friend of ours had an unknown corn allergy that was causing incredible amounts of destructive behavior. Making a simple dietary change was enough to allow him so much more control over himself, and be able to be calmer and more constructive. An amazing turnaround given such a simple solution.

Posted by: Ms L | October 11, 2006 12:54 PM

Pittypat clearly has no idea what today's homeschool family looks like. My children are in no way isolated or stuck at home. They are involved in a weekly sports group run by a homeschool dad involving 80+ kids, take band and strings, have ballet and other enrichment activities as well as doing community service and church events. Our challenge some weeks is making sure we are HOME enough to work on academic subjects. Contrary to the individual postings of those who met a homeschooler with a lack of social skills (as if no one ever came out of public or private schools with poor or no skills), I find that the many older homeschoolers I know in high school and college are usually (not always) extremely poised and gracious and have confident conversational skills well above the level I find with kids who spend their days segregated in age specific groups.

Posted by: homewith4 | October 11, 2006 12:54 PM

interesting how people say mainstreaming is inherently good because people have to get along with everyone when they get older. That belief is probably not true. How many austistic people work with you in your job? How many people who can't sit still, pay attention and produce work on demand (an admittedly broad definition of ADHD) get ahead in any job field? The answer to both questions is close to zero. Adults DON'T have to get along with everyone. We have to get along with our bosses (hee hee).

to dignity: public schools can have strong arts...we even have orchestras, bands, jazz bands, chorus, etc. starting in MIDDLE school. Arts are one thing our taxes pay for. Academics and sports are others. Public school can be just as invigorating as all those private school brochures emphasize. It is a matter of what your student takes on as part of life.

Posted by: dotted | October 11, 2006 12:59 PM

As a child I went to a private (not parochial) Catholic grade school in DC, and later transferred to public school in Montgomery county when my family moved to the suburbs. I felt that I and my brothers were ahead of the public school kids at the time, educationally speaking. I still wonder how my parents afforded the private school, being working class and having a large family, but they did. The local parochial school kids in DC seemed like they were a tough bunch to me, but I didn't have that much contact with them so that could be a wrong impression. My private school had a large contingent of doctor's and professor's kids, but also some "problem" kids who were sent there because they couldn't manage in a larger school environment and I guess the nuns at our school were the last step before reform or military school...

But I finished in a public high school and did well, in a lot of ways it probably opened up my horizons in ways that propelled me to become a PhD scientist, that may or may not have happened had I stayed the Catholic school course.

Fast forward to my kids... they went to public school in a pretty well-regarded system in NJ. They did fine, my daughter is now starting grad school and my son is doing well in college. I was a single mother from almost the beginning of their school days, and I have to say that my ability to cope did have some impact on what school they could attend. Not just the money aspect - I may have been able to scrape up enough for one of the pricey private schools if I had felt it was the thing to do. I would not have considered the local Catholic schools really since I don't really feel they had any advantages over the public school academically and I am on the outs with the Catholic hierarchy, so to speak... But anyway one of the main issues with the other private schools was just logistics. I have no idea how I would have managed to transport the kids there and back, and I don't think that after school care was practical either, compared to the local public schools. I always wonder that about "school choice" and vouchers etc, how in the heck are poor parents or single parents supposed to solve the transportation issue for a school that is not right nearby? To me those issues are not "selfish", they are shear practicality, can one manage it or not.

So anyway I have rambled, but I think public schools can be fine for your kids, although I can see advantages to private schools too. And I can see how what works for the parent(s) can be a very important factor as well.

Posted by: Catherine | October 11, 2006 12:59 PM

This questions keeps me up at night already too.

As far as balance goes, this is how I look at it. Some things will be taken care of at school and some things will be things we do from home. It's all just choosing what happens where.

I went to public school in grade school and learned to shut up and play dumb; then I went to a private school and learned to be an academic snob; then I went to university and blended the two, completing the process in my first job.

I really believe in supporting public education, but I am also really unhappy with the direction that it has taken in the last several years. I think public education is often open to doing what is politically expedient vs. what is best, because so many of the kids in the public school system simply have no choice but to be there. Right now I think what is politically expedient is not good for kids.

I also think it is, as a public system should be, geared towards the "average child" and therefore if one's kids fall at either end of the spectrum in any area, it stops functioning for that child.

As an example of what I think is not working right now - I was a precocious kid, read at 3 years old, and am really glad to have done so. No one supports reading more than I do. But I still don't think it's developmentally appropriate to be pushing kindergarten kids to read - I think it's more likely they'll get turned off reading entirely. And that seems to be what's happening right now, in order for them to pass the test.

(Having book-based activities like being read to is great; I'm talking about phonics and "popcorn" (sight vocabulary) word drills. Kids should be manipulating concrete objects!)

So what it all comes down to, for me, is what's best for my child. I think we will try Montessori (assuming we can afford it, which is definitely not a sure thing) up to a point (it goes until 6:30 for no extra charge, if we need that), and then the public system. If none of that works, we'll try something else.

I think homeschool (unschooling, not the 'sit and fill out worksheets' type - there are many many kinds) can work really well and would consider it for a year or two under certain circumstances - the ideal would be travelling around the world, I think :) but I can think of other ones. But my type of homeschool would be finding other people to teach/mentor my child in a lot of things because I am not really prepared to teach full time.

Posted by: Shandra | October 11, 2006 1:05 PM

The original just a thought: I know money alone isn't the solution, but it is one area in which we need to equalize things between districts. I also think wee need to invest more in education overall. At the very least, it means more and better teachers (of course, I'm assuming the districts will handle things in a way that's best for the kids...maybe wishful thinking). As to kids whose parents are uninvolved, who live in dangerous neighborhoods, it's them I had in mind with the "support programs provided for students who struggle or have a lack of support at home" part. I don't pretend to know the solution, but something like an after school mentoring program might make a huge difference in these kids lives. If you can make even a few kids understand that they have the potential to better their situation, and give them the support they need to accomplish that, you've made things at least a little better for the next generation. We need to start looking at the children of this nation (including and especially the disadvantaged ones) as the future we all need to invest in.

Posted by: mm | October 11, 2006 1:09 PM

Children who have ADHD or bi-polar and are helped by medication should certainly have it. But I'd encourage you to read the op-ed piece in the Washington Post this past weekend on the lack of standards in evaluating and diagnosing these true debilitating illnesses on children who are simply struggling to learn at their own pace.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 11, 2006 1:12 PM

"A homeschooled, 19-year-old girl I was friends with was emotionally the age of a middle-school girl, with all the drama ('But I thought you were *my* friend, blah blah blah.') that entailed. She just had no idea how to have friends, how to relate socially people or how to interact with others outside of the classroom. No one really wanted to be friends with her; the rest of us had all outgrown that nonsense at about age 13...You can always catch up on the book learning. But people skills aren't so easy if you miss out on them. And considering how much people skills get brought into college courses these days, the lack of social skills does nothing but hurt you far more than the academic skills.College doesn't offer remedial classes in how to be a person."

That social stunting can happen anywhere. Trying to learn social skills at 23 that everyone else learned by having friends at 13 is hard. It's hard no matter if you missed out by being isolated from other kids in homeschooling or correspondence courses, or missed out by going to a private school or public school where none of the other kids wanted to be your friend.

"I don't think that property taxes that go to schools should be divided equally among the schools. If someone works hard to provide a certain type of life for their children they shouldn't have to suffer because other people didn't do the same thing. That seems like socialism to me. If you want things in life you have to work for them..."

How hard do 5-year-olds in wealthier school districts work to earn their public school kingergarten classes?

"If your kids are so understimulated, why don't you skip them a grade?"

What if the kid's ahead in some subjects but not in all of them? Suppose a 3rd grader's ahead of even the fastest-track 3rd grade math class but reading at an average 3rd grade level. Skipping that kid a grade could mean he or she fits in with a 4th grade math class but is behind most of the other 4th graders in reading.

Posted by: Maria | October 11, 2006 1:13 PM

Our neighborhood public school provides class for children that will turn 3 before Dec 31 (Pre-K 3's). We switched our child from a private daycare center to the local elementary school this fall, fully prepared to pull him out if it didn't seem to work for him. Although we were worried about the older kids teasing the little ones, they have been incredibly loving and sweet.

The drawbacks are that the facility is in poor shape and we do have to pay for afterschool, but evcen so it still is saving us almost $1000 per month during the school year (I'm not sure yet what we will do during summer). Also, the teacher doesn't have time to fill out a daily sheet that informs us of what happened during the day. We became rather addicted to these sheets!

Our son doesn't mind that the building needs new windows-- he just loves his friends and teachers.

So far, we have given the money we have saved these past two months to various charities and political campaigns. We are considering giving a larger chunk to the PTA to pay for building upgrades, teacher stipends, etc., but fear that may be too self-serving?

A charter "middle" school in our neighborhood provides substanially more hours of classroom instruction than the neighborhood "middle" school. I imagine it must be a great help to working parents.

Posted by: Capitol Hill mom | October 11, 2006 1:14 PM

I'm a longtime lurker, compelled to post for the first time today. To Father of 4, ADHD and medication are two subjects I know a lot about. There is absolutely no doubt my son has ADHD and he does take medication. But here is the guideline I would give you. You describe your son as "annoying." That to me says your son's behavior is often inconvenient to you and to other adults. If that is truly the extent of it, it is unlikely your son suffers from a *disorder* as my son does. A child suffering from a disorder will exhibit behavior that is, first and foremost, a problem for the CHILD. His problem interferes significantly in his functioning. His problem is an enormous boulder in his road, that he simply cannot push aside without help. If the time ever comes when you can say this about your child, then that may be the time to pursue professional help and treatment for him. I hope my post has helped you a bit to understand the difference between a mischievous, active (even somewhat troublesome) child, and one who suffers from a disorder, and why the parents of a child who truly does suffer a disorder would turn to meds. and other treatments. Sorry for the length.

Posted by: First time poster | October 11, 2006 1:15 PM

My son was having trouble in school. He'd been diagnosed with sensory issues, and had a behaviour file about an inch thick. We were looking for a therapist to talk both to him and to us about what options (including medication) were out there.

We called more than ten, all in Fairfax County, all well known for their work with children. (Many written about in magazines and newspapers.) Out of the ten, half of them (half!) were willing to prescribe medication without even meeting the child. Three others were certain that medication was needed -- again, based only on a phone call!

I'm not a snob when it comes to medication -- I give it to my child when the situation requires it -- but who's watching the "experts?"

Posted by: Anonymous | October 11, 2006 1:15 PM

To the parents who homeschool, do you think that your child will be able to compete with other children when applying to college? Do you think there would be any bias toward your child?

Posted by: Meesh | October 11, 2006 1:16 PM

"interesting how people say mainstreaming is inherently good because people have to get along with everyone when they get older. That belief is probably not true. How many austistic people work with you in your job?"

At a previous job I had a blind coworker. Mainstreaming in school really depends on the student and the disability. In one of my college classes I had a deaf classmate and the sign language interpreter who translated the professor's lectures for him wasn't distracting at all. In my high school I had a classmate in a wheelchair and he was mainstreamed for everything except gym class (he'd lift weights when everyone else ran on the track and so on).

Posted by: Maria | October 11, 2006 1:21 PM

Wilbrod, MSL, thanks for the dietary hints. What concerns me most about my kid is the lack of excersize and emphasis on academics in the public schools. To counteract this deficiency, I have enrolled him in both Tae Kwon Do and football. It's a demanding excersise routine, but it gives him the needed physical contact with others that he craves so much. It also wears him out and makes it much easier for him to sleep. He does sleep like a rock and never gets sick. I'm looking for signs of stress, but so far this year, he seems to be handling it quite well.

I think a lot of the behavioral issues are teacher specific, but hey, everybody has had to deal with that nightmare teacher, right? He would probably love going to military school. I'm not really worried about him being able to handle the system, but can the system handle him?

Posted by: Father of 4 | October 11, 2006 1:21 PM

Private vs public: there is no best answer. I think it depends on your child, your local schools, your priorities etc. We live in a very good public school system and I am a big supporter of public education, but when it was time for our daughter to go to Kindergarten, we found out that our local elementary school is year round. It works great for the problem that they were trying to solve (about 50% of the kids are in English as a second language ESL, so during the long summer breaks, they would speak little english and loose a lot of ground) but was not needed in our case. We liked the idea of having the summers off for travel, going to the pool etc. Additonally, the school day started at 9:15 and ended around 3:45. Our daughter would have had to go to before and after care, which we did not like. It would have cost a small fortune because we earn more than 50K combined. Actually, it came very close to the tuition we ended up paying at the local catholic school which is a national blue ribbon school of excellence. There the school day is 8-3, so she only goes to aftercare where she gets a lot of play time and does most of her homework (she is now in 4th grade). This was a really surprising decision for me: We are not catholic, I never imagined sending my kids to catholic school, yet for us, it has so far worked out very well. The curriculum is excellent, there is good discipline and morals and the school community is very tightnit with a lot of like minded parents.

Posted by: FC mom | October 11, 2006 1:24 PM

I'm surprised that so many people hang onto the myth about home-schooled kids being isolated. You make it sound as if they are in dungeons somewhere! There are plenty of opportunties for social interaction with other children through youth groups, sporting associations, community centers, the list is endless.

Posted by: Rufus | October 11, 2006 1:24 PM

I don't think of it as public schools as much as I think of it as the neighborhood schools. My kids go to school with the kids in the neighborhood, kids they play sports with and kids from scouts and music. There is a strong sense of community that the kids grow up counting on. They have strong bonds with their friends and the parents know each other. It is perfect for working moms because of the support and back-up from other parents.

Recently a situation came up with a few of the boys my son is close to. They are in high school now. It took two days for all of the parents to hear about it and follow-up with their own kids. It is hard for the kids to get away with much when everyone knows each other.

I'm lucky to live in a community that fully supports their public schools and demands high standards from the schools and the children.

Posted by: be true to your school | October 11, 2006 1:25 PM

Fo4 - my husband was that kid! :) I am in no way minimizing ADHD but there are also kids who are either borderline or just - active. And errr.... self-directed, as in "I don't see why I need to do what you want me to."

His parents put him in every sport imaginable and now he has an advanced degree and works incredibly hard - sitting down. Who'd've thought? Hang in there. :-)

Posted by: Shandra | October 11, 2006 1:25 PM

I actually became a lawyer because I wanted my children to be educated in Jewish day schools, and it was clear that we couldn't afford it on my husband's salary + my part-time secretarial job. I think the private schools my children have attended are generally more sensitive to time issues of working parents because, having committed to spending $10,000 or more per year on tuition, there are very few families that can afford SAHM. I do have one pet peeve -- the day schools close not only on Jewish holidays, but also a day before so the teachers can have a day off to prepare. That's tough for working parents who are already taking time off for the holidays and then have to scramble for childcare for the prep days as well.

Posted by: Lawyer Mom | October 11, 2006 1:27 PM

Elena, I read the article you referred to. It's incredibly sad and makes me want the war to end quickly.

However, writing on this blog and caring about where to send your kids for school does not mean that you don't care what's going on in the world.

Do you really think that the people on this blog are unaware of today's headlines. Do you think that this is the only thing they do all day long?

You can care about the things on this blog AND care about things all over the world. The two examples you gave in your post are not mutually exclusive. Why don't you try perspective on for size?

Posted by: Meesh | October 11, 2006 1:28 PM

"How hard do 5-year-olds in wealthier school districts work to earn their public school kingergarten classes?"

Their parents work hard to be able to afford them the opportunity to go to a good school. They pay high property taxes; they went to school to better themselves instead of doing other things, etc, etc. You took that post out of context and twisted it to your own belief. No one said the kids work harder or deserve more than other kids. All kids deserve a good education. However, the middle class shouldn't have to pay for it all.

Posted by: to maria | October 11, 2006 1:37 PM

This has been an interesting discussion on many levels. Of most concern to me at this point (my very active 4 year old boy will go to K next year) is Catholic school vs. public school. My husband is lobbying for Catholic. But I recently learned that the Catholic school near our house has larger class sizes than the public elementary school! However, I am very concerned about the lack of PE, music, art etc. and the whole idea of making kindergarten more "academic." I want my kids to have some work/life balance too! The tips for visiting schools and asking questions have been very helpful, so thanks to all.

Posted by: LQ | October 11, 2006 1:39 PM

Given the comments that I have read here about bullying and harassment, I wonder if the main reason many parents choose private schools is because they feel their children will be safer there, that the private school will weed out those who would have a tendency to bully.

I went to several Catholic and some public schools. There were two Catholic schools that I remember having a child or two in class who had a tendency to want to fight or pick on other children. I think you have to choose a private school very carefully, just as you would a public school.

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | October 11, 2006 1:42 PM

Social Opportunities for the Home Schooled

Neighbor has 11 y.o. boy who is isolated IMHO. Was withdran from pre-school after something like 3-days after getting an ear ache. Mother claimed was due to unsantitary conditions. Two years later the kids was enrolled in first grade on the pre-condition he not be "forced" to ride the bus or "forced" to have play dates with other children. Kids being kids, he was teased for his heavy New Yawk accent and mild baby talk speech. Mom has same non-local accent Withdrawn and homeschooled ever since. It is a little sad, we never see him playing outside.

Kids are resilient though right? I dont have to worry right? It is a free country and parents have the right to do what they consider BEST for their kids.

What checks and balances are on the home schoolers? Methinks that parent's license exam needs to be a little tougher....

Calls the police or fire dept for any problems (puppy runs into yard, smells smoke near furnace), yells at kids who go into yard to retrieve a ball. Only in movies?

White, $1mio house, total loon. But I mean that in the nicest way, just keep that kid away from my daughters.

Posted by: Fo3 | October 11, 2006 1:43 PM

Lots of random comments:

First on the 'fit' of a school's offerings to WOH versus SAH schedules. I think a lot of this is regional. We are in Atlanta and have often found here that kids' offerings fit SAH schedules better than WOH schedules --- events or activities predominantly scheduled during the workday, availability of quality aftercare options, etc. When we were on sabbatical in a Boston suburb, we found the total opposite: options that fit families, especially WOH families, smoothly, including a small tightknit town with an excellent public schools, library, virtually free public pool, public ice rink, parks, etc, all within walking distance, so that your child became part of a community in school that they saw daily about town. The school's aftercare program was excellent --- dedicated space overflowing with craft and indoor play opportunities; nice options for outdoor play, homework assistance, etc; staff who were engaged and mainly former teachers. The PTA arranged afterschool activities *in school immediately after school* for those interested, that the aftercare would escort kids to and from; and SAH moms could just pick up their kids afterward, instead of a just-after-school pickup. All in all, the logistics there just *worked*; it was much easier for us to construct enriching, fun, pleasant days for our kids there than it is here. Here we still do it but it takes lots more work and commuting and schedule- juggling; we have plenty of options but instead of being public and central they tend to be dispersed and private (or church-located, at the moment my kids are in 4 different church's facilities weekly as space-offering hosts for aftercare, scout troops, and music lessons - fortunately this involves space and no proselytization).

Here, my impression is that the private schools are *more* interested in supporting WOH parents by providing a quality full-day experience, with strong aftercare programs and integrating afterschool activities into workday time, than the public schools. They know their market, and have some motivation to attract them! Our excellent public school, though, went from having a totally crappy aftercare program - basically sit in the cafeteria with one or two disinterested adults, our county's default aftercare provider whose brochures brag they will "keep your kids off the streets so they won't get involved in drugs and crime" --- sorry, my expectations are a heckuva lot higher than that for my young elementary kids! --- anyway, to close my sentence, the in-school aftercare changed from that in a heartbeat to an excellent program staffed by teachers, with multiple opportunities for library/computer time, homework asistance, gym time, crafts, playground, etc - just because our new principal arrived and decided any aftercare in our school should live up to the school's own high standards. (I'm glad the school aftercare is a good option for parents now; but my kids have stayed with their original aftercare, where they built friendships and attachments, and which picks up the kids by van afterschool).

To Rebecca, who was considering Montessori. I am really attracted to the Montessori model, of self-paced, child-centered learning, no early elementary homework, no to minimal standardized testing, etc. It would be my clear first choice if our public elem school were not so strong (and we are in a bad-to-patchy county, so we bought our house pre-kids especially for its districting to this elementary school).
I have seen many parent friends start Montessori for what are essentially WOH lifestyle issues --- they offer the rare option of full-day, child-centered but academic preschool starting at 3yo, rather than having to arrange juggling their kid between half-day preschool and part-time care. This offering of one seamless caregiving environment can be a real source of continuity and security for a child. But often these kids and parents fall so in love with the school that their preschool choice becomes their elementary, private school choice.

When you start your kids anywhere, they may get attached and not uproot easily later!

The only drawback I've seen with Montessori is that, since they have 3-year-wide age groupings, in small schools kids can get stuck in a class with other kids or cliques that are excluding, mean, or disruptive, and this lasts for years; they can't just be switched or broken up to avoid personality issues.

Last comment: while of course the quality of the in-school educational experience for the child is primary, the issue of how smoothly their daily lives function after school, and how enriching their afterschool time is, is not inconsequential. Kids live all day long, they don't turn off when the school doors close, so meeting their needs beyond school hours, providing the most downtime and enrichment with the least stress and commuting, is a valid point of comparison between schools and communities.

Oops, a last last comment: a lot of school issues are really student-teacher personality mismatch issues. One thing our school does that I really like: while you can't request a teacher, you can write the principal a letter describing your child's personality and characteristics in the classroom, and what qualities in a teacher are important for your particular child to thrive. They will use that info in matching your child to a teacher. This is mainly useful for your first year; once you are in-school they know your child and you can discuss next-grade-placement with the child's current teacher, who makes recommendations. I have seen some sad mismatches when parents (including me, the first time) didn't take advantage of this.

Posted by: KB | October 11, 2006 1:44 PM


Has anyone really, really stretched financially to move into a better public school district? In other words, you put your kids in better schools, but all their peers (and parents) are in a higher socio-economic class and have "more"? Was it worth it, or did they (or you) just feel like fish out of water?

I'd appreciate anyone's thoughts or opinions on this.

Posted by: Maggie | October 11, 2006 1:47 PM


Has anyone really, really stretched financially to move into a better public school district? In other words, you put your kids in better schools, but all their peers (and parents) are in a higher socio-economic class and have "more"? Was it worth it, or did they (or you) just feel like fish out of water?

I'd appreciate anyone's thoughts or opinions on this.

Posted by: Maggie | October 11, 2006 1:47 PM

"I hope my post has helped you a bit to understand the difference between a mischievous, active (even somewhat troublesome) child, and one who suffers from a disorder, and why the parents of a child who truly does suffer a disorder would turn to meds. and other treatments. "

ITA. There is annoying behavior, and then there's behavior that as a parent makes you really feel for the child. My son may do some annoying things, but I'm so tuned in to his talents that, despite his ADHD, other descriptors come to mind when I talk about him.

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | October 11, 2006 1:53 PM

To dotted:

This varies. In our county music is funded, but not art. Our school does have an art teacher, but only because her salary + benefits is *fully funded* by the PTA, with proceeds from an annual arts auction.

This shocked me when my kids became school age, that so much of the minimal requirements (art, playground equipment, computers) of elementary schooling is *not* funded by taxes, but left to the parents to finds ways to provide, or not. And it just
perpetuates inequality: wealthy districts have more parents with the time, money, resources, and fund-raising connections to bring into the school what should already be there, imho, as a minimum societal investment in our children.

>public schools can have strong arts...we >even have orchestras, bands, jazz bands, >chorus, etc. starting in MIDDLE school. Arts >are one thing our taxes pay for. Academics >and sports are others. Public school can be >just as invigorating as all those private >school brochures emphasize. It is a matter >of what your student takes on as part of >life.

Posted by: KB | October 11, 2006 1:59 PM

Has anyone really, really stretched financially to move into a better public school district? >>>

I have had friends who did this. I find it odd because they could have spent less on a private school tution and keep their old house. Now they have an overvalued townhouse that they will not be able to sell for awhile due to the crashing housing bubble. All that for a public school??? Weird financial planning, IMHO.

Posted by: alex. mom | October 11, 2006 2:01 PM

to Maria...
of course mainstreaming depends on the disability. Unfortunately, we're reading a lot here today concerns ADHD and austism vis a vis mainstreaming. I.e., the impact of disruptive children on the learning of others whether in public or in private schools. One child's right to be disruptive because of some recognized or unrecognized disability ends with the another child's right to an education. Selecting private school could be made to ensure their child's right to an education.

to OMomof2: interesting take on weeding out of bullies in private schools. One doesn't meet too many collaborative CEOs. CEOs seem to be psychological bullies. by your reasoning, public schools are better at producing CEOs...

Posted by: dotted | October 11, 2006 2:02 PM

of course it depends on the school district. My comment was on the blanket statement made on public schools in general. There are public schools with everything those expensive private schools brag about. I hear of schools in Fairfax and Prince William county having similar accoutrements.

Plenty of people choose more expensive housing to get a better ranked public school system. Here in NC, one sees it in all those choosing Chapel Hill over Durham or Wake (Raleigh). Housing is more expensive in Chapel Hill..and taxes are about double over Durham and Wake. Chapel Hillians stretch themselves just to live in the Chapel Hill school district. And housing prices here are not going down. Living in Chapel Hill(vs Durham and Wake) can be a good financial bet.

Posted by: dotted | October 11, 2006 2:08 PM

Regarding stretching financially to move to a better school district, I wouldn't necessarily agree that you have to be in a rich school district to have a good school. We live in Fairfax County and the quality of the schools there makes the homes more expensive. But our particular school draws from both upper-income and lower-income neighborhoods. In fact, our school has a large reduced lunch population and is a Title I school. The reason why we were concerned about going there was that the test scores were low when we were trying to decide what to do. It turns out that they were low because a large segment of the population comes from homes where English is a second language, so the students taking standardized tests were at somewhat of a disadvantage. But the overall quality of the education seems to be great. In large part because it IS a Title I school. All children benefit from the Title I status. There are more resources for reading teachers, field trips, etc. The school has art more than other elementary schools in the county, and the kids can start strings a year earlier. The PTA doesn't have enough volunteers, because most of the parents don't have time because they work (some 2 or 3 jobs), but the people who do participate are just thankful for any help they can get and do not meet the stereotypes of PTA parents that have been alluded to here today. And my children haven't come home wanting every materialistic thing under the sun because, as far as we can tell, the other kids don't have a lot of the "extras" you think of rich spoiled kids having.

Posted by: Sam | October 11, 2006 2:13 PM

I'm struck by all the posters that say they moved their kids to/from private/public school. Isn't changing schools traumatic for the kids? This could erase some if not all the benefits of switching.

On another note, I already have plans to organize WOH parents in my kids elementary school after being on the receiving end of multiple 'Heisman's' from the SAH volunteer squad at her pre-K.

Posted by: stability | October 11, 2006 2:17 PM

dotted --

I agree with your point. It annoys me too when people rag on public schools without even knowing what their own public schools offer, today (not 20 years ago or in someone's imaginings). And I'm strongly biased toward public if it's at all possible, for reasons of community and diversity, and am happy I could have my kids in a good public school.

But I also was shocked how much of that excellence is not coming from a collective societal commitment through taxes, and instead left to parents to fundraise for. Especially after a day of (some, not all) child-free posters claiming they're paying for our kids educations . . . They're probably not paying nearly as much of the cost as they think . . .

Posted by: KB | October 11, 2006 2:21 PM

This has been so educational for me, I'm so happy to read about real perspectives on this and minimal head bashing!

We all obviously know that a child CAN be a huge success no matter how awful a school is and CAN be a huge failure no matter how wonderful a school is.

Personally I think, unless your child has really serious problems or is exceptionally gifted, it won't matter much where you put them for the first ten years. Active parenting can make up for any lackings or holes and asses sociability.

I think it's the LATER years where the quality of the educators and programs will really come into play as the children become more active participants in choosing their own curriculum and setting the track for their future.

While I understand the concerns about home schooled kids, I knew a few in my school days and they seemed very fine and adjusted- and obviously their parents encouraged them to socialize outside the home. I was envious of their ability to personalize their time and schooling track. Like all choices- it's the perfect choice for some, and the worst choice for others.

However I have to admit I found the comment about keeping kids from public schools because of how "all the other" kids DRESS pretty amusing. A parent who can't raise their child with good dressing skills because of peer pressure is going to have bigger problems than what school program to put them in.

Posted by: Liz D | October 11, 2006 2:23 PM


Big changes can be Big Deals, but it depends more on how it's handled. While you want stability when possible, nearly every child changes schools at some point. It could be taken as an opportunity to teach them how to deal with change in life better and if it really is a better choice in the long term, some interim instability shouldn't be that big of a deal.

Posted by: Liz D | October 11, 2006 2:26 PM

" Isn't changing schools traumatic for the kids? This could erase some if not all the benefits of switching. "

As a kid who was switched, I didn't find it traumatic at all. It was actually pretty awesome to go from a place where I had to worry about whether someone was going to steal my lunch money to somewhere I didn't. It's not like I didn't see all my friends after school and on weekends and on sports teams.

Posted by: Prep | October 11, 2006 2:26 PM

Liz D...great note...I also have been chuckling at some comments!

Also, what some of the kids are wearing to school today seems just like what those same kid-type wore when I was in school in the 70s! If you're going to protest-dress, then at least be original!

Posted by: dotted | October 11, 2006 2:28 PM

My kids are in Catholic school for religious and logical reasons. I don't see them as mutually exclusive. We live in Chicago, where there are a handful of academically excellent public schools, with the rest ranging from ok to mediocre to truly awful. Our neighborhood school would probably fall on the mediocre side, with class sizes of more than 30 and third-graders spending the year learning how to pass the required state assessment (according to neighborhood parents). But most of the neighborhood kids whose parents have education go to magnet schools out of the neighborhood--it's kind of a two-tier system. What I like about the Catholic school: faith-based education (no, Chirstmas is not all about Santa Claus); family atmosphere; healthy emphasis on discipline (unlike area public charter school, which touts nothing but discipline). Someone above wrote that people who send their kids to private schools think they have better schools because they are with kids whose parents send them to private schools. Perhaps in an area of questionable public school quality, that's true. While Catholic school tuition does not compare to some of the other private school tuitions (I pay $8,000 total for two kids, one in full-time K, one in thrid grade), I find that parents writing a tuition check every month make sure their kids do their homework and show up to school--something that doesn't happen at every public school in the neighborhood.

Posted by: mmartin | October 11, 2006 2:30 PM

Liz D - Of course I can teach my child to dress well and not to give in to peer pressure, but I don't want my daughters submerged in an environment where a lot of other girls find their value or self worth from the amount of attention (negative attention) they can get from guys because they dress like hoochies!

Posted by: Lou | October 11, 2006 2:32 PM

Also, with regard to money in schools - if you're wondering "where it all went" it went to the SPED programs (in any individual district, more than 70% of changes in education costs are increases in Special Needs Programs). That's right. You are paying for the IEPs and 504 plans for every Tom, Dick & Harry whose parents say they have a disability and should have: 1) an aide, 2) tests read to them, 3)an individual education plan. The Americans with Disabilities Act did a lot of great things. Helping schools meet funding difficulties is not one of them.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 11, 2006 2:32 PM

To the poster offering tips on what to look for when considering schools, who included as one of the criteria the number of kids who qualify for free lunch.
You'd suggest that's a negative thing, then?
I'm disappointed no one else chose to respond to that.
I think you're appalling.
Sorry to ruin the thread of "niceness" today, but that ticked me greatly. Poverty does not automatically = high crime/bad kids.

Posted by: kim p | October 11, 2006 2:34 PM

Regarding: "To the parents who homeschool, do you think that your child will be able to compete with other children when applying to college? Do you think there would be any bias toward your child? Posted by: Meesh | October 11, 2006 01:16 PM"

My husband and I left the DC area to move to a university town in a largely rural state. We were surprised to find that the local public schools had low graduation rates, low rates of progression on to college, lower test scores, etc. We did not want our kids exposed to the low expectations we found in these schools, so we looked into private schools.

In this location, that meant religious schools. I was absolutely shocked to learn that corporal punishment was standard at those institutions (one teacher told us of a case where she "paddled" a 1st grade boy for bad behavior, and then later, when he refused to pray with her to "repent," she paddled him again!). I was sickened by the acceptance of what my husband and I view as child abuse.

So now we are the most unlikely of homeschoolers. We did connect with our local and state homeschooling groups, and that has enabled us to be involved with group activities, including sports and orchestra. I do worry about the social consequences of homeschooling, especially since most of the kids we know are from religious families.

As far as college, the groups with which we are involved have advised us to contact colleges of interest as early as 7th or 8th grade and find out what we'd need to do to make a case for acceptance in 4 - 5 years. Christian colleges are used to this kind of thing, but since we are not looking to send our kids to such institutions (we're from a different demographic), we've spoken with admissions staff at some state and nationally-known colleges. We're frequently advised to ensure the kids earn some credits at the local community college before applying. Some have suggested taking the test to obtain a GED. Others have suggested preparing for and taking several AP exams, as well as scoring well on the SAT.

Posted by: Flyover-state mom | October 11, 2006 2:35 PM

To kim p

My last post wasn't directed to that person in particular, but goes to that point.

Posted by: Sam | October 11, 2006 2:36 PM

I switched schools a couple of times pre-high school, and it wasn't that hard for me to adjust. High school age changes might be tougher however.

Posted by: school switcher | October 11, 2006 2:37 PM

To kim p

Actually, I re-read my earlier post, and it didn't address the point because, while it referred to the reduced lunch population, it didn't comment on the kids. When I chaperoned my daughter's class field trip I was concerned about some of the behavior I saw, but probably no more so than I would have been at any other school. Overall, the kids just seem to be nice kids.

That person's point may have been that, if you have a poor population, the property taxes in your district will be lower and less resources will go to the school. I'd like to assume that's what they meant anyway. In our case, the fact the school is a Title I school offsets that. Plus it's in a wealthy county, even if the school itself has a large reduced-lunch population.

Posted by: Sam | October 11, 2006 2:41 PM

Dotted-did you see thong underwear purposely hanging out in the 70's? Doubtful. Also, how about that cleavage and those bra straps intentionally showing?? My mom has been a public school teacher in a small to midsize town for 34 years and you can bet that it's gotten a lot worse.

She actually called a girl to the hallway to ask her if she knew that her underwear were showing and the girl responded, yeah who cares??????

Not the influences I care for.

Posted by: Lou | October 11, 2006 2:41 PM

"In our county music is funded, but not art. Our school does have an art teacher, but only because her salary + benefits is *fully funded* by the PTA, with proceeds from an annual arts auction."

This is so sad.

My mother was an elementary school art teacher for more than 40 years. One of the things that was a constant was that so many kids who didn't do well in other subjects (not academically sharp, not physically coordinated, etc.) really thrived in art class. As did many of the kids with behavioral and/or developmental problems.

And because my mother held a spring art show every year, these kids had a chance to shine publicly as well. It was amazing to see their faces glow with pride as they led parents over to a picture, weaving, sculpture, or clay piece that they had made. Because my mother encouraged her students to "work big," they were able to really fly with their imaginations. And, they loved it!

When art education started being downsized, these were the kids who suffered. And now, with art programs considered a luxury, few kids get to have the experience of creating.

Posted by: pittypat | October 11, 2006 2:41 PM

Father of 4

I was the classic girl with AHAD. Every symptom was so perfectly textbook, and my mother refused to do anything about it. To this day I have not totally forgiven her about it. Two years ago I went and had myself diagnosed (I am now in my mid twenties, and was teaching at the time, and was doing an AHAD eval for one of my students) and realized what the answers would mean for myself. I was a smart kid (97 percentile or higher on every exam, graduated early from college, etc) but I know so many heartbreaking opportunities that i have lost permanantly b/c of untreated AHAD.

Properly medicating AHAD takes a while, and you have to make sure that you get the right drugs, that you don't over do it, and that its not the only thing that you do. There are AHAD counselors that work in the DC-Metro area with families in addition to the medications. It frequently takes several tries to get the meds right. I lucked out and we got it on the second try, but it was miserable as a working adult to have to go to work trying meds.

Please stop listening to the mass anti-pill hysteria. I would never go off my meds. I get twice done with them then i did before them. Problems arise when you expect them to change your child entirely. I still have to make lists, work harder than most people do, and every once in a while someone has to tell me I'm having an AHAD moment and that i need to calm down. With a already hyper boy that's goign to happen a lot more--the trick is not to overmedicate which a lot of parents unwittingly do.

There are also a few other points I'd like to make. As a former teacher, I'd like to point out that many many many teachers have AHAD. They understand what you're goign through, and when they recommend meds and help, its because that's the same advice they'd do for themself. They want you to go to a doctor and get your child completely checked out. We would see parents take this as a proof that their sperm was no good, not that there could be a legitimate medical problem and just not care.

Try the diet. I don't eat a lot of that stuff anyways because its mostly junkfood. With the rise of artifical colors and crap in food this may be why we're seeing so much more AHAD issues. He may also want/need attention for some other reason, you never know with kids.

I also found growing up that people with issues end up medicating somehow. I had a billion and one activities, which i managed to do poorly because i lost all of the details on them. Since drugs affect AHAD people backwards frequently (you MUST drill this into your kids heads) other friends turned to illegal drugs to help them focus--this makes illegal drugs TWICE as dangerous for an AHAD person! They have no idea how it will affect them! Does coffee settle you son down sometimes? I'll bet it depends on how much caffine he gets.

I would be very happy to talk to people at length offline about this. I never knew how much i was missing until i could finish a reading assignment and retain all of it--yet somehow i'd finished a BS and a MS already by thrashing and misery, and lost several presigious opportunities. Thanks mommy for all that misery.

Posted by: ljb | October 11, 2006 2:46 PM

"to OMomof2: interesting take on weeding out of bullies in private schools. One doesn't meet too many collaborative CEOs. CEOs seem to be psychological bullies. by your reasoning, public schools are better at producing CEOs... "

Actually, I think public schools would be better at producing people who can learn to relate to all types of people. Theoretically, anyway. If one can learn to outsmart or avoid a bully student, maybe that can translate into later dealing with a bully boss, etc.

Really, what I was trying to say is that many feel private schools are safer, because bullies and extreme disruptive and violent students are weeded out. And that's not always true.

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | October 11, 2006 2:47 PM

"...who included as one of the criteria the number of kids who qualify for free lunch. You'd suggest that's a negative thing, then?"

I'm glad you mentioned this one (because I missed it). Several years ago, one of my wife's friends, who proudly proclaims herself an "ultra-liberal" used that as one of her primary selections when moving her child to a new school. Oh no, she didn't want a school that served lots of free lunches for her child.

We simply had never heard of such a thing before and were amazed that someone who embraced left-wing policies for other people's children kept them far from her children. This was also about the time that we noticed that all of our liberal friends live in the "whitest" neighborhoods. Go figure.

Posted by: Rufus | October 11, 2006 2:48 PM

"My issue with home schooling is that the majority of children who home school are white, Christian and fairly well off. Life isn't full of white, Christian people so it doesn't really give you exposure to others who you will probably have to encounter in the working world."

"What about parents who homeschool for religious reasons -- e.g., don't want kids learning evolution, human reproduction, etc. Are their kids getting the kind of well-rounded education that secular homeschooling provides?"

Why ask these questions about religious homeschoolers alone? Why not ask them about private religious schools which are often filled with white Christians who don't want their children learning evolution and human reproduction?

I'm not trying to be adversial...it just seems ironic to me that you never hear those questions or comments about someone who chooses Catholic school but you do about someone who chooses homeschooling for religious reasons.

Posted by: momof4 | October 11, 2006 2:55 PM

I attended both private and public high schools in NorthernVirginia. I found the biggest difference to be that the private school had more freedom with the curriculum and taught to the smartest in the class. It was a challenge to read Shakespeare in 7th grade, but I worked hard to prove it was not beyond me. I stretched and grew immensely.

By the time I got to public school in 11th grade, I had read everything in the English class, spoke 2 languages, but was still horrible in math. It was much easier to slip throught the cracks and be anonymous in class due to class size. The teachers slowed down to let everyone catch up. I still learned and had good teachers, but it was not near the pace as private, and the exposure to different ideas was not as great.

In the end though, my friends from public and private schools all went to the same colleges, ended up with the same type jobs, and had the same experiences with drugs and alcohol.

I treasure both experiences as they brought out different sides of me and forced me to explore who I was. The right choice is the one that works for your family.

Posted by: Former NoVa Mom | October 11, 2006 2:56 PM

Thanks, ljb, for your comments. They are really valuable. I've certainly been judged for giving my ADHD child medication, but I've been supported more.

I do admit that although I'd rather not have my son take medication, when I read about other parents who give their children 5 to 7 different herbal and vitamin supplements as well as the Feingold diet, my thought is, "medication is medication, whether it's synthetic or natural."

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | October 11, 2006 2:59 PM

Pittypat: I can't believe I am agreeing with you, but you are correct on the comments about art in school. It has not been cut in our elementary school - they have art twice a week and music twice a week - they call them "specials." My daughter loves both (as do most kids in 3rd grade) but she also told me that no one gets in trouble in "specials" - even the "bad kids" love art and music - it is a creative outlet for them. We have 2 fantastic art and music teachers that keep it fun and the kids look forward to it all week, and apparently behavior is almost never an issue.

Posted by: cmac | October 11, 2006 3:01 PM

Just wanted to say to foamgnome that I am having the same issues with my 3-year-old son and his daycare/preschool. They are telling me that he has sensory integration issues (because he likes finger painting too much) and has trouble sitting still in his chair. I have not met that many 3-year-old boys who routinely sit still in their chairs. But anyway, after months of talking about this, I decided to have him evaluated. If he does have some issues that therapy would help, then we'll get him help. If not, then the preschool will have to come up with another plan for "helping" him with what have then been determined to be normal 3-year-old issues.

I guess I'm still a subscriber to the belief that all of us have distinct personalities and will interact a little differently than each other. That doesn't mean we need to be diagnosed. Some kids are more social, others are less so. As long as they aren't hurting each other or themselves, I don't think we need to intervene to make them all just like each other.

Thanks for the support of posters today. Maybe there is another group just for people with these issues (kids trying to be diagnosed by teachers, but parents not sure it's the best thing).

Posted by: Anonymous for today | October 11, 2006 3:02 PM

Actually, I remember seeing lots of bra straps and cleavage (some a result of a lot of padding)...though maybe the big deal then was NOT wearing bras at all (ha ha ha)! We didn't have thong underwear, even in 70s California. It is always something to get attention.

I'd be upset by the disrepect to the teacher than what she was choosing to wear. Having said that, even Chapel Hill schools don't allow underwear to be shown, bare midriffs, or spaghetti straps..on boys or girls. Here the teacher could escort the young 'lady' to the vice-principal's office for a coverup XL Chapel Hill Tigers T-shirt!

Posted by: dotted | October 11, 2006 3:03 PM

I don't think that property taxes that go to schools should be divided equally among the schools. If someone works hard to provide a certain type of life for their children they shouldn't have to suffer because other people didn't do the same thing. That seems like socialism to me. If you want things in life you have to work for them, so unless the whole state is going to subsidize my property taxes I suggest you find another solution to the school problem.

Posted by: tired of paying for everyone | October 11, 2006 09:48 AM


I haven't read all of the posts, but I wanted to respond to this one post. I can understand the concern that many wealthier parents make their decisions on "good schools" and "good neighborhoods" and want their children to reap the benefits of their hard work. However, I think it is unfair to say that families that live in less affluent areas haven't worked hard. This attitude promotes the multi-tiered system where those that have, stay on top and those that have not, stay on the bottom. When kids from poorer areas go to weaker schools that don't have good resources, they are more likely to have difficulties later in life. It is an endless cycle. And it is unfair that those with lower paying jobs do not have the same means to ensure their childrens future. Is quality education reserved from those that come from silver-spooned families and well off professionals, or should we guarantee that all children are granted a quality education regardless of their parents financial situation?

I live in a more affluent part of PG county and if/when we have kids, we may send them to private school elsewhere. However, that does not mean that I resent my higher property taxes going to support the local school structure whether it is my neighborhood school or the lower property valued areas of my county. I think educating children is an important part of the public infrastructure and that the county needs to support all their children EQUALLY.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | October 11, 2006 3:03 PM

Okay, this and then I need to go back to work.

"That's right. You are paying for the IEPs and 504 plans for every Tom, Dick & Harry whose parents say they have a disability and should have: 1) an aide, 2) tests read to them, 3)an individual education plan. "

Sigh. Child, please! Children QUALIFY for special ed services through an EVALUATION. Not through word of mouth and a couple of winks. If you're going to troll, at least know what the Hades you're talking about!

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | October 11, 2006 3:06 PM

Dotted-So are you ok with that?

I apparently made some people laugh, but I think it is something to be concerned about.

Too many girls using their sexuality for attention.

Posted by: Lou | October 11, 2006 3:07 PM

"This was also about the time that we noticed that all of our liberal friends live in the "whitest" neighborhoods. Go figure."

Rufus, they are called limosine liberals - and this area is full of them. They are for the underpriveleged and poor - as long as they are in another neighborhood.

Posted by: CMAC | October 11, 2006 3:12 PM

I'm not trying to be adversial...it just seems ironic to me that you never hear those questions or comments about someone who chooses Catholic school but you do about someone who chooses homeschooling for religious reasons.

Posted by: momof4 | October 11, 2006 02:55 PM >>>

Yes, you don't hear that about Catholics schools because...um...let us reflect a moment on the history of science and the Catholic church. Uh, the Catholic churched learned early on not to get involved with science, remember the whole thing with Galileo didn't go so well. Catholic schools teach evolution because it is science. There really isn't that much conflict between religion and science for Catholics.

Posted by: alex. mom | October 11, 2006 3:14 PM

cmac --

Hey, we have something in common after all!

Glad your kids are having good art and music experiences. It's nice to know that this stuff is still valued in some school settings.

Posted by: pittypat | October 11, 2006 3:17 PM

momof4, most Hispanics are Catholic, so my Catholic school was very diverse. It was also in an urban area, so that also helped with diversity. Parochial schools are not nearly as expensive as private schools, and so they are not as exclusively white and rich. We learned evolution and had a religion class wherein we learned about all the world's religions. I doubt that happens in public schools.

dotted, that's another good reason for parochial school--uniforms. I loved that I wore the same thing every day and that I looked the same as all the super rich kids. But when I was a kid, my mom wouldn't let me out of the house dresses like a hoochie, so maybe that was a different time.

Posted by: Meesh | October 11, 2006 3:18 PM

Aren't there standards to follow in homeschooling? Keeping attendance, taking tests, keeping records, etc? I know DC has no such guidelines (surprise, surprise) so I'm sure I will follow Maryland's guidelines for documentation and such until DC requires it.
I've read that all that is required of me is a letter of intent to the DC superintendent of schools that I will be homeschooling my son.If anyone knows different please let me/us know!

Posted by: 2xmami | October 11, 2006 3:19 PM

BTW, all of you who are complaining about how teenagers dress, you are officially old! :-)

Remember our parents and grandparents complained about our clothing when we were teenagers!

Kids today!

Posted by: alex. mom | October 11, 2006 3:20 PM

To Rufus

When we were trying to decide what to do regarding our elementary school and spoke to some neighbors who had either opted for private or used a loophole to go to another elementary school, we ran into similar attitudes. Neither neighbor would come out point blank and say they were concerned about the low income or complexion of the kids at the school but I got a "just go visit the school and you'll see what I mean." What I saw was a school full of nice kids who happened to have a lot of different complexions and speak a lot of different languages. And I really don't consider myself a flaming liberal by any stretch of the imagination. (Not that you can't be conservative and value diversity, but that's inconsistent with the stereotypes unfortunately.) That being said, I'm concerned about the middle school because it has a reputation for gangs. I think all middle and high schools have drugs these days - just more expensive ones in the richer schools - but that it's still possible to avoid gangs. If possible, I'd like to do that!

I also knew someone who was really supportive of school desegregation and busing in the '70's, but when he had children in the late '80's he decided to send them to private school because he didn't want to make an "example" of them. While I can understand how things look different when you're talking about your own child's education, it seems strange to do that when you have the resources, after arguing that those who don't have the resources to send their kids to private school should be forced to bus their kids to the other side of the city. If you think others should be forced to do something they don't want to do for the sake of the public good and raising all standards, then why not walk the walk yourself?

Posted by: Sam | October 11, 2006 3:20 PM

cmac that is an interesting term. I have never heard it before, but I have, as a moderate democrat encountered them in the DC area. I was perplexed by the idea that some of them could even still call themselves a democrat and feel they way they do about some issues let alone call them selves a "liberal."

Posted by: scarry | October 11, 2006 3:28 PM

To theoriginalmomof2: Not that it matters, but I do know what the HADES I talk about. I was in public education for a number of years. Do YOU even know what a 504 plan is (without Googling it)? And by the way, this "evaluation" of which you speak is garnered by every parent who walked through my school requesting one. I don't remember one single child who didn't qualify. Ironically enough, when I taught them the same as everyone else in their history class, these kids excelled and for many of them ended up doing the best of all their courses. Nice try, though.

Posted by: Ugh | October 11, 2006 3:30 PM

real quick here responding to Lou at 3:07...

It isn't about what I'm okay with...teen exhibitionism seems to always be present everywhere...think of all those private school girls hiking up their skirts by rolling their waistbands, unbuttoning their shirts, padding their bras...now and in the 50s! It is just everywhere. I just wouldn't make a decision of something so prevalent over time.

interesting article on girls/exhibitionism/brains called "Female Brain" in today's N&O (from Washington Post)...http://www.newsobserver.com/105/story/497214.html

Posted by: dotted | October 11, 2006 3:31 PM


I completely agree that teaching kids to dress appropriate for context is a great skill and that we should be raising all children to be confident in who they are and not use sexuality as a way to gain attention.

I just think choosing to put someone in a school or not put someone in a school BASED on what "everyone else is wearing" is silly. Of all the things to consider- this seems irrational and very lacking in prioritization.

Posted by: Liz D | October 11, 2006 3:31 PM

As a working parent of an ADD girl, I think the public schools have more to offer after diagnosis than before. They are terrible at handling ADD girls, who often time have daydreaming as an issue rather than hyperactivity. Since they're not being disruptive, they don't get any services. I had to fight every step of the way and ended up getting private testing (because I can afford it).

I think it is very foolish not to have a child tested and diagnosed, no matter what your position on medication is. It is better to know what you are dealing with--learning disabilities, vision, hearing, inability to focus (ADD), etc. Just because you don't like chemotherapy vs. radiation, do you avoid finding out if you have cancer? ADD is a problem in the brain, not a fad. It affects grades, mental health, ability to interact socially, etc. Decisions about medication or other interventions come later, after you find out what the problem is. Now that we have a diagnosis of gifted/LD/ADD, the public school has provided the services (reading/writing specialists and social skills training) and classroom accommodations that supplement the medication. We, as parents, have learned parenting and coping skills that help home life. Now, DD can pay attention, make friends, and get better grades than ever. She is not a zombie, but a lively, dramatic, HAPPY, little girl with great grades. My friends with girls in private schools do not get nearly as many support services.

Posted by: Part-timer | October 11, 2006 3:35 PM

OK, so substitute "private non-denominational Christian school" for "Catholic School" in my comment. There are plenty of Christian schools that are predominantly white and that don't teach evolution or sex ed, and nobody ever questions whether those children are being sheltered from diversity or science or opposing viewpoints....yet they question a family who homeschools for "regligious reasons."

And just for the record, I am neither a homeschooler nor a Christian!

Posted by: momof4 | October 11, 2006 3:37 PM

I just think choosing to put someone in a school or not put someone in a school BASED on what "everyone else is wearing" is silly. Of all the things to consider- this seems irrational and very lacking in prioritization.


Then why do a lot of school use uniforms? Even some public schools are turning to uniforms.

Also, I don't know how my child innocence is not a priority. It goes beyond what they are wearing to what message they are sending.

Posted by: Lou | October 11, 2006 3:38 PM

scarry - that term has been around for years - it illustrates the hypocricy of many wealthy liberals. There are a number of politicians that come to mind.

Not to say that the Right does not have their fair share of hypocrits, but we are not the self proclaimed "party of minorities and underpriveleged."

As one poster, who was defending conservatives, put it a couple weeks ago - being a miserable human being is not a party affiliation but a character flaw. Not an exact quote but you get the point.

Posted by: cmac | October 11, 2006 3:40 PM

Child please! Don't be snarky, that is a straw man. Et tu.

Posted by: Mr. Echo | October 11, 2006 3:40 PM

Why is it that every other gift has some sort of label or combination of labels?
I am sorry parttimer, but what the heck is gifted/LD/ADD????? How many different combos are there? When I was in elementary school, I was shy. Today I would be socially impaired, or something like that. My best friend was outgoing and talkative, she would now be ADHD. What is going on with this?

Posted by: me | October 11, 2006 3:41 PM



Posted by: momof4 | October 11, 2006 3:42 PM

theoriginalmomof2, I agree with you. The ADA has nothing to do with IEPs and 504's--

That's section 504, passed back in the 1970's called the "mainstreaming act", or the Least Restrictive Environment act.

It allows people like me to attend public schools and not get dumped into "separate and inequal" schools miles from my family where the teachers are basically more the nanny-type rather than the academically challenging type.

IEP= individual education plan. The IEPS are also required for disabled kids in ALL schools, whether in deaf-blind schools, private, or mainstreamed.

It provides an explanation to the parents of the codswallop they're planning to dole out to their kids and what the plan is, and provides parents the opportunity to contest the plans for their kids.

Frankly, without IEPS so many talented people would wind up in vocational-track educations.

Unfortunately with many parents who don't know how to push, many special students do get less than the best education they could get because of low expectations, or that they don't really care if the kid's needs have changed since the past assessment and thus do not provide the support services needed.

This can be a particular problem with kids that seem to be "almost normal" in their ability. I myself have a friend that regularly considered blowing his brains out on the lake when the sun would set in HS because he was moderately deaf, completely mainstreamed and depending on oral instruction, no support services whatsoever.

He was pulling a D average and considered himself lucky to graduate from HS. Thankfully he learned sign, broadened his horizons and overcame the horrors of his HS years.

THAT's what ignoring "students who aren't that disabled" does.

I can easily say that I got the better education at my mainstream HS than I'd ever have gotten at the other alternative I had. I was present at my own IEPs in HS.

Personally, I don't know why every kid can't have an IEP, at least in elementary school where a teacher works with 30 kids max that year.
In HS, that would be kind of a staggering workload.

I know of a teacher who has to prepare 30 IEPs for every kid he teaches at his school.

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 11, 2006 3:43 PM

momof4: I agree with your comment. I would have issues with a religious (non-Catholic), no science and sex ed. school. They are just as sheltered as well. The kids are in a similar situation as home schooled children. I think part of getting an education is being around and having to get along with people who are different than you.

Posted by: alex. mom | October 11, 2006 3:48 PM

Uniforms are good for two reasons other than limiting provocative dress:

(1) in areas with gangs, it minimizes students being able to wear colors or logo affiliated with that gang (though I'm sure there must be another way to mark themselves); and

(2) it relieves pressure on parents to spend a lot of money on the latest brand name label. One of my husband's co-workers was very thankful when her public school, in a low-income area, switched to uniforms, because it made it easier to say no to her kids' pleas for the latest designer clothing. (Not trying to get into a discussion over the ability to just say "no" - just saying it helps.)

Posted by: Sam | October 11, 2006 3:50 PM

Special needs DOES NOT MEAN stupid.

And yes, the fact that the students do well in a given class thanks to appropriate support services means the class is a good match.

Personally, that attitude makes me wonder if I would have even liked you as a teacher. I had another friend who relied on lipreading for all her classes at one high school, who pulled D's in English because her teacher gave oral quizzes-- facing the blackboard, and "refused to change how he taught" for one student or anything. She won a writing contest that year, and she now has a MA in TOEFL and works as a preacher.

She has a LOT of rage towards her old high school teachers for how wonderfully supportive they were of her needs.

I also doubt this person is still teaching, or he would cite "NCLB" would be a bigger focus of outrage for all teachers. I know my teacher friends complain about that as the number one burden and drain on school funding. They don't complain about ADA, Section 504, IEPs or anything.
It is hard work to do an IEP, yes but it's part of the job, and they know how to write them.

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 11, 2006 3:52 PM

Going from private to public school in fifth grade was not one of the better years of my life; I still wish I'd been allowed to either stay another year or go straight to middle school, even if it would probably have doomed me in math. But I managed, and I was not the most resilient of kids.

As for parents worried about kids seeing others with more in a private school setting and therefore wanting more, I just took it in stride that everyone's family was different. My boyfriend, who attended a private Catholic school on a scholarship through high school, says he always considered himself lucky in comparison to those of his classmates with lots of money but very little attention from their parents. If you're the one feeling inadequate, your child will pick up on that; if you act like it doesn't matter, they will, too.

Posted by: to stability | October 11, 2006 3:53 PM

If you're the one feeling inadequate, your child will pick up on that; if you act like it doesn't matter, they will, too. >>>

To to stability: well said!!

Posted by: alex. mom | October 11, 2006 3:56 PM

to momof4:


Posted by: 2xmami | October 11, 2006 3:58 PM

i have to laugh at the peer pressure comment. friends of mine put their daughter in a private school to get her away from the bad influence of her public school friends. the result? she found the bottom feeders at the expensive catholic school in fairfax county they sent her to & continued to barely get passing grades, smoke pot and even got an abortion. there are bottom feeders everywhere including expensive private schools. if your child wants to hang out with the bottom feeders (s)he will find them no matter where they are going to school.

Posted by: quark | October 11, 2006 4:07 PM

"Then why do a lot of school use uniforms? Even some public schools are turning to uniforms."

IMO because they are looking for easy visibile answers that don't really solve anything or enact any actual change but look like they are.

"Also, I don't know how my child innocence is not a priority. It goes beyond what they are wearing to what message they are sending."

Hmm where did innocence come into this? I thought this was about teaching children good values and learning how to be confident casual dressers instead of using sex to feed their need for attention. Now you're talking about shielding them and that somehow being AWARE is a bad thing.

You're right- school is the WORST place to send someone if you want them to remain ignorant/innocent.

Posted by: Liz D | October 11, 2006 4:11 PM

If you have 30 children to teach in a 45 minute class, exactly how do you expect teachers to "meet the needs" of all of these individuals? I'm glad she had a lot of "rage" towards her teachers. Allllllll of those people were so bad, and she was right, right? Aren't there any parents of middle-of-the-road kids on this board? Do they know that IEPs and 504s allow that when ONE parent comes in for a meeting, the teacher has to leave their entire other class to come and sit. So you could have one parent meeting for an IEP/504 a week, and have the math, english & history teachers pulled out of class to go to this meeting, leaving THREE classes worth of kids to miss a good day of teaching to chat about one kid. Something is wrong with that.

Posted by: Ugh | October 11, 2006 4:15 PM

"There are plenty of Christian schools that are predominantly white and that don't teach evolution or sex ed, and nobody ever questions whether those children are being sheltered from diversity or science or opposing viewpoints."

Oh, yes, people certainly do question this.

My taxes underwrite, among other things, the nonprofit status that churches enjoy, despite the fact that their schools teach religious subjects while refusing to teach evolution and other mainstream curriculum topics they don't like.

I realize that there's nothing I can do about my tax dollars supporting churches, but I can register my dismay in many ways: writing to legislators, writing to newspapers, voting in every election, etc.

So can anyone else who is bothered by this.

Posted by: pittypat | October 11, 2006 4:20 PM

"What I dislike is parents pulling out private school attendance as a badge of status. Pick a school that works for you and your child -- it's a lot more about the child than the school anyway."

Not necessarily. Life isn't fair, and private schools CAN offer (not all, but some) a built-in advantage.

Take me for instance. I went to a VERY competitive university that a lot of people would give their front teeth to get into. But I had a 3.0 GPA and really no extracurriculars ... why did I get in? Because I went to one of the best private schools in my area, and our headmaster had a relationship with the admissions committee. So I - a lesser student - got the spot that might otherwise have gone to a harder-working student from a less reputable school.

Life ain't fair, I have my degree, and no apologies for it :) It's a game, and it's naive to think otherwise.

Posted by: To RoseG | October 11, 2006 4:22 PM

Liz D - It's really hard to answer you. My opinion is that innocence is something to be protected.

Since when was shielding an altogether bad thing??? They can understand and be aware without it being in their face everyday.

I was looking for friendly conversation and you are just nasty.

Posted by: Lou | October 11, 2006 4:23 PM

Liz D - It's really hard to answer you. My opinion is that innocence is something to be protected.

Since when was shielding an altogether bad thing??? They can understand and be aware without it being in their face everyday.

I was looking for friendly conversation and you are just nasty.

Posted by: Lou | October 11, 2006 4:23 PM

Also, I would bet that those teacher acquaintances of yours who believe that NCLB is a worse drain on financial resources than SPED programs have never done a longitudinal analysis on public schooling budgets over the past 50 years. They may think NCLB is the financial drain, but data show otherwise.

Posted by: UGh | October 11, 2006 4:23 PM

Liz D - It's really hard to answer you. My opinion is that innocence is something to be protected.

Since when was shielding an altogether bad thing??? They can understand and be aware without it being in their face everyday.

I was looking for friendly conversation and you are just nasty.

Posted by: Lou | October 11, 2006 4:24 PM

My apologies for the triple post.

Posted by: Lou | October 11, 2006 4:25 PM

Are you against tax exempt status for all non profits, or just the ones you don't like?

Posted by: Prep | October 11, 2006 4:36 PM

"Liz D - It's really hard to answer you. My opinion is that innocence is something to be protected. "

Then we have a fundamental difference of life progression and perspective which will never be resolved.

"Since when was shielding an altogether bad thing??? They can understand and be aware without it being in their face everyday."

I never said shielding was altogether bad. As I said in the beginning, I think not putting someone in a school because of how everyone dresses is irrational and silly. The process of a child becoming aware of fashion and how it can be used is pretty universal- what they do with it depends totally on your own inculcation of values.

"I was looking for friendly conversation and you are just nasty."

I think I'm sarcastic and occasionally hyperbolistic, but not nasty.

Posted by: Liz D | October 11, 2006 4:37 PM

Liz D wrote:
You're right- school is the WORST place to send someone if you want them to remain ignorant/innocent.

Great comment! Good on ya! And I don't believe you're being nasty at all.... I'm laughing too hard to type.

Posted by: dotted | October 11, 2006 4:40 PM

Ah, now we're back to normal, cmac!

"Not to say that the Right does not have their fair share of hypocrits, but we are not the self proclaimed "'party of minorities and underpriveleged.'"

No, the Republican Right is the self-proclaimed "party of family values," isn't it? With such wholesome examples as Tom DeLay (will that be a felony or a misdemeanor?), Trent Lott (can you spell desegregation?), Mark Foley (can you spell pedophile?), Dennis Hastert (learned crisis management from the Catholic clergy), Ralph Reed (did someone say "Abramoff"?), George Allen (he's the "Macaca" guy, right?), George W. Bush (believes the right to life begins at conception and ends at birth), Bill Frist (cat-killer) . . . shall I go on?

cmac, Rufus, you guys are living in fragile, glass houses. Better keep the stones inside. :>)

Posted by: pittypat | October 11, 2006 4:40 PM

I find it interesting that so many people are offended by parents who search out the best public schools for their kids. When I was looking, I looked at test scores, class sizes, and yes, I did look at the percentage of kids who qualified for subsidized lunches. Unfortunately, wealth is an indicator of academic success for kids, because generally the wealthier parents are more involved in their kids' educations. They tend to be professionals or skilled in some way, and recognize that education is key to getting ahead in life. They have more time to volunteer at the school and participate in their kids educations, and even if they are very busy, the make time because it is a priority for them. Families tend to be more stable when they have more money. Teachers don't have to deal with the disruptions that may come from children who live in less stable environments. I read an article about teaching in the DC public school system, and learned that because so many kids come from dysfunctional families, they bring their emotional issues to school and teachers have a hard time teaching because they are dealing with such issues.

So I make no apologies for searching out the very best that I can afford for my child's education, even if that means moving to the very best school district or school neighborhood I can afford. I am all for supporting the public school system and the disadvantaged, and will pay taxes and advocate for these things as much as I can. But I will not sacrifice my child's education to my politics. I have a responsibility to make sure my child gets the best education possible, and that is my first priority.

Posted by: Anoneemouse | October 11, 2006 4:42 PM

Lou: I don't think shielding your kid from seeing people who wear provocative clothing is going to accomplish much. I went to a school with a very strict dress code, and there was plenty of sex, drugs, and crazy stuff going on in spite of the long skirts and buttoned-up shirts.

It's like how some Southern Baptists won't let their kids dance for fear it might stir up physical lust. How well do you think that works?

The values you teach your own kid are what counts, not whether or not a girl in her home room class has her bra strap hanging out.

Posted by: Dress Code | October 11, 2006 4:44 PM

Are you against tax exempt status for all non profits, or just the ones you don't like?"

Just the ones specifically identified in the Constitution as NOT part of State (as in separation of church and).

Posted by: pittypat | October 11, 2006 4:45 PM

I am in regular contact with a home-schooled boy in this area and recently met a distant cousin, age 13, who is home schooled. Both kids impress me greatly with their wit, manners, intelligence, and maturity. They are both interesting kids who can talk well with adults. I compare my cousin with another female cousin the same age who goes to public school and the home-schooled girl is so much more articulate and out-going. Ok, maybe that's just a personality difference, but there are people here saying home-schooled kids don't learn social skills and I think that's just a ridiculous generalization that of course isn't true of all home-schooled kids.

As for diversity, I grew up in one of the least diverse areas of this country and I have no problem relating to people of other races or cultures. It all depends on what you're taught. I've known plenty of people who grew up in diverse areas who were racist or never had a friend from a different culture because they self-segregated (as their family and neighbors taught them) within their town, schools, churches, etc.

Posted by: Mel | October 11, 2006 4:52 PM

Cmon, Pittypat, cmac had already said that her party has hypocrits, she was just pointing out that they are not the same kind of hypocrits. Could you just not stand the niceness of the day?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 11, 2006 4:54 PM

She pinpointed that particular teacher as WRONG not to just for heaven's sake face the class when giving oral quizzes. We are talking about the teacher facing 180 degrees away from the student.

You can't tell me that wasn't delibrate on the teacher's part especially when she ASKED the teacher please to face the class.

Generally, she was continually bothered by the fact that all of her teachers kept treating her as if she was stupid because she was special ed.

This may have been accurate or not, but you must understand that most people that are speaking to a deaf person with good speech tend to continually forget they are deaf, and they get very impatient with the deaf person for misunderstanding.

When an student has to interrupt the class by asking a question to clarify what was said, the teacher can choose to reply in good grace, find a way to teach better, or blow up.

I had a latin teacher who had an extremely oral style and I was failing her class at first because I was a little lost by all the singing going in class and the quizzes nearly every other day.

She was an award-winning teacher and she worried she wasn't teaching well because I was her first student in 30 years. As it is, I improved gradually and was happy about it, and I really liked her even if her style was at first completely wrong for me.

Overall, I had a great experience until I ran into a physics teacher who would blow up at me whenever i asked him a question, saying he had already said that. The problem might have been with my interpreter. He also failed to provide an textbook or a curriculum to allow me to study and review on my own. I got a D in that class, which I have never forgotten, especially how he treated me.

And I was not stupid, I had completed GT chemistry and was taking AP biology and I was doing great in my math classes.

Yep, it was the teacher, who gave me NOTHING to compensate for his poor teaching style and rudeness.

It is amazingly easy for a high school teacher to destroy the self-esteem of a student by refusing to teach the student. If I hadn't already known I was good at science and math I don't know what I'd have done. As it was, I had physics anxiety for a long time.

As to IEPs, I'll have to talk to my teacher friends, but I strongly believe that your school did it inappropriately.

Normally the special ed teacher is the one who does the IEPs. She gathers the info from the teachers, writes up the IEP, and then sits down with the parents to explain the IEP.

In HS I never had any of my regular mainstream teachers sit down once for a meeting. And I'm perfectly aware that teachers are supposed to have "free periods" in order to grade papers and so on, and that classes do not need to be disrupted.

I don't think my parents met with any of my teachers once for IEP purposes other than the special education program teachers.

And in special ed high schools, yes, each teacher has to write the IEPs, although they don't teach 180 students per year, normally 30-75.

Writing IEPS isn't hard with some organization and tools in place to assess students' progress. I was just talking with a couple teachers about how they do IEPs. Sometimes the school systems can be really anal about IEP format, which is why I think it's better for the special ed teachers to do the final reports.

That said, assessing 180 students in a year? Organization is key, you need the data, which can be gathered just fine from the work you assign the students.

If you have already organized the criteria which you are teaching the students with and can identify what is hindering the students from succeeding.

However, I must say that compared to my previous job, grading papers is a snap, and I really wouldn't find doing 180 IEPs a year that unreasonable, if I had a plan in place from day one.

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 11, 2006 4:56 PM

Here's how I see it. I grew up in a poor area and went to public school. I was fortunate that many teachers I had were energetic, caring, and dedicated. My parents were very involved in the school and my sister and I did well. My former boyfriend's son went to what is considered the best public school in Montgomery Co., and my boyfriend was not at all involved in his son's education. Although the boy was very intelligent, he floundered, didn't turn in homework, and barely graduated. I really think parental involvement and good teachers are what matter most.

Posted by: Chloe | October 11, 2006 4:57 PM

Posted by: Anonymous | October 11, 2006 4:57 PM

The Constitution doesn't actually include the phrase "separation of church and state."

Posted by: not a lawyer but I play one on TV | October 11, 2006 4:58 PM

Special ed support services are a budget drain, Ugh, of course. It simply costs more money for the special support services.

Always has, always will. It doesn't mean those children shouldn't be educated. Which is why I'm concerned about your attitude.

I just don't see IEPs as the major drain, although if your school did it how you describe, I'm sure that was a disaster.

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 11, 2006 5:03 PM

So what if it doesn't say "separation of church and state" in those many words. It still makes that point.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 11, 2006 5:04 PM

Cmon, anonymous person who won't commit his/her name to his/her post --

Admitting that one's party has hypocrites when the entire leadership is guilty of ethics violations at the very least (and in some cases violations of law, as well) is a little like saying, yeah, I like to have a drink now and then when you're really putting away a fifth of gin on a daily basis.

Sometimes, it's the degree of depravity that's important, not the particular act or instance.

Posted by: pittypat | October 11, 2006 5:05 PM

Wilbrod - I'm really glad you got to experience a teacher who had it in their blood, so to speak (your Latin teacher). I live in Massachusetts, so granted, our education laws are way to the left of most states, and it sounds like our SPED requirements are a little more onerous than yours. Individual teachers come together to write the IEPs, not the SPED teachers (who, I agree, are much better suited to come up with one), and in any given class, you could have IEPs for 9 out of 25 students - with requirements ranging from peanut allergies (nope, not kidding) to PDD to ADHD, etc. Additionally, all of the individual teachers DO have to go to parental meetings pretty much on-demand. If a parent comes in at 8:30 am, if I have a class then, I'm in the meeting, not in my class (also, for what it's worth, I used to have one free period a day and used it as an extra-help session for kids who needed it, not usually to grade papers). I've been in meetings where a math, science, english and history teacher have each left a regular class, thereby giving nearly 80 kids a "study" and although we should have excellent back-up plans for when we have to go out, it still strikes me as wrong to have 80 kids miss out on a day of teacher-led learning to do one meeting with one kid's parent. I just get this awful sense that we're teaching now to the lowest common denominator, instead of trying to keep these kids in step with their classmates and raise their abilities! (thanks for sparring with me - I'm glad to hear other teachers don't have to go through the IEP hell I did).

Posted by: Ugh | October 11, 2006 5:12 PM

Pittypat, you are so right about the hypocrites. The party in power needs to shut it trap and clean up its act before it throw stones elsewhere.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 11, 2006 5:12 PM

Wilbrod - I appreciate your thoughts about educating everyone (note, however, I never said we SHOULDN'T teach special ed kids). You were just talking about how many of your teacher friends think NCLB is responsible for less money for art, science, etc. NCLB might be responsible for less TIME to do those things, but the lack of money can pretty squarely be placed on growth in SPED requirements. And, as for IEPs and 504s - I think that a longitudinal study needs to be done on the efficiency of those, too. Shouldn't our school districts be responsible for figuring out if this is money well spent, or, in the long run, if they end up being a drip in the bucket?

Posted by: Ugh | October 11, 2006 5:16 PM

busy day so just getting to the posts.

Couple of comments to an earlier poster who commented that she homeschooled because her kindergartener didn't need to be away from her for 30 hours a week (must be full day kindergarten) I agree she doesn't need to be away but if you see harm in her being gone is that about your seperation anxiety or hers?

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | October 11, 2006 5:16 PM

As a product of private schools, I know very well the benefits. Not just the curriculum or the credentials of the teachers, but the way kids are socialized can be a benefit to their long term careers. However, it is not the prescription to our challenge of providing a good education to all children.

Private/Catholic schools range in quality. And here is my experience as a student and graduate from one of the higher rated schools.

A voucher will not get you in, if you do not have the grades, test scores and interview well. My former school would not have been an option to more students, 35-40 incoming girls is all they have room for.

If you have financial issues paying for my former school upon acceptance, an alumna or patron will underwrite your tution if they truly believe in you. But a voucher that typically only covers only 750 dollars will not even put a dent in your first set of fees.

Students may be able to go to schools that wish to compete for students, and do not have a selective process. There are some parochial schools that fit this catergory. And in my modest life history appear to offer no more than the average public school.

Furthermore, students may have religious traditions to follow as a requirement that may not fit their core beliefs. In NYC it is not uncommon for muslims and jews to attend catholic schools. However there are no special provisions for them as they observe their religion as there would be in a public schools.

Certain magnet schools such as Peter Steyvesant, Hunter are very good schools and spurs competition. What is needed is more public options.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 11, 2006 5:16 PM

You people need to stop being so partisan. Be quiet and support the current regime. Anything else is unpatriotic.

Posted by: Joe Liberman | October 11, 2006 5:17 PM

pittypat, I agree with your content, I disagree with your tone - what is all that "can you spell X" stuff about except to imply that cmac is too stupid to get it? She was responding to a question about the phrase "limosine liberals" not giving a diatribe about how one party is better than the other.

and since pittypat is probably not your real name, you are no better than I am in my anonymity

Posted by: Anonymous | October 11, 2006 5:19 PM

To the anonymous 5:19 poster - but if you went by an alias we would be able to determine which comments belonged to you. As this blog is a dialogue anonymous posters make it harder to have this dialogue because it is hard to keep them and their varying opinions, snarkiness, etc apart.

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | October 11, 2006 5:25 PM

5:19 Anonymous
"and since pittypat is probably not your real name, you are no better than I am in my anonymity"

On that point, not necessarily. It's a common myth that people can remain anonymous in regular online communications. Identifications form very quickly and while someone like myself may remain "anonymous" in terms that you can't come over to my house later- I do have a clear identity which I share and associate myself with.

Remaining completely anonymous in terms of not attaching any identity to one's words whatsoever is usually done as a defensive move to hide and calls question to the strength and validity behind them. It's just how we process and judge communications.

Posted by: Liz D | October 11, 2006 5:30 PM

fair enough, divorced mom of 1, it is more considerate. I will call myself snarkly liberal, I wrote the 4:26 and 5:19 posts to pittypat.

Posted by: snarky liberal | October 11, 2006 5:32 PM

All I have to say is that we all pay taxes and there are a lot of things that my taxes go to that I don't like, so I geuss that's life. As long as your kid is not made to go to the catholic school pittypat, how is it hurting you? I am a catholic and while I don't believe in everything they tell me, I do belive that if they want to no teach evolution, they have the right.

Posted by: scarry | October 11, 2006 5:38 PM

anonymous poster --

I'm sure I'm no better than you are, period.

The tone is called "satire." Political satire is one of the oldest, most venerable genres of writing. I was responding to cmac's own political satire: "we are not the self proclaimed "'party of minorities and underpriveleged.'"

You see, she was laughing about the fact that Democrats pride themselves on their dedication to the poor and underrepresented, but many of them aren't even familiar with the neighborhoods in which these folks live. I, in turn, was laughing about the fact that Republicans have been representing themselves as the decent, ethical, family-focused, and morally unassailable party for the past 12 years, but many of those driving the party message are hardly paragons of virtue, themselves.

Of course, satire isn't funny when you have to explain it. Sorry you didn't get it.

By the way, cmac is fully capable of defending herself. She's a lot smarter than you apparently give her credit for.

Posted by: pittypat | October 11, 2006 5:40 PM

As someone who attended public schools until middle school,I think the switch was the best thing for me.

Though I had strong parental influences at home, I tended to be more of a follower back in school. I did well in both systems, but I think the relatively selective nature of the private school kept me away from some of the more extreme rebellion you'd find in a public school that has to take all-comers.

We had our fights (student vs student, teacher vs student), pregnancies (against student on student and a possible teacher on student... the teacher was a religion teacher at that lol), etc... but it never got to a point that it impacted the learning environment.

It was a select group that graduated... the troublemakers were weeded out, while folks that fell too far behind usually were pulled out by their parents. Everyone that made it to the end were truly prepared for college.

On the flip side, my school didn't really have the resources or the size to go too far out of the standard curriculum. I took Shakespeare and creative writing my senior year because there were only 2 other students interested in taking an AP physics course and it just didn't make sense for the school to offer it. I wasn't able to focus on the subjects that would give me a leg up in college.

By the time I reached college, it was the public school students (many from magnet schools though not all) that had 20-30 college credits coming in the door.

I was well prepared for college but my high school education didn't nearly have the ROI of the public school students who didn't pay and were able to graduate early.

Posted by: A. John | October 11, 2006 5:43 PM

Pittypat, I am in turn sorry that your version of satire sounds so much like condesencion, as does your "apology." I make no judgment about cmac or her intelligence (in reference to Liz D, I read this blog occasionally but not enough to attach any particular weight to the majority of names), only what your post seemed to me to imply; and I certainly didn't realize I was prohibited from speaking on the grounds that she is also capable. It just jumped out at me as being such a nasty attack after a rather interesting and pleasant day.

Posted by: snarky liberal | October 11, 2006 5:47 PM


I agree that our taxes don't always go to causes we support. For instance, I hate it that my tax money pays for the purposeless war in Iraq, but I also understand that I have no say in how my taxes are spent by lawful government entities. (Except, of course, at the polling place.)

However, the Constitution does specify that government is not to support the establishment of any religion (the exact words are: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ..."). Many scholars (especially those familiar with Jefferson and Madison's intentions, as conveyed in their writings) read this to include financial support to religious organizations. Giving churches tax-free status does, in fact, give religions financial support.

How does this hurt me? I don't approve of what organized religion teaches; therefore, since constitutionally these organizations have no right to government support, I don't want my tax dollars providing this support.

How is this different from my tax dollars supporting the war in Iraq, which I also disapprove of? Our government is legally empowered to collect taxes and use the tax money to fund military actions, as approved by Congress. So, other than voting to get pro-war incumbents out of office and to keep pro-war candidates from getting into office, there isn't anything I can do because the funds are being used legally. (Morally, of course, is a whole different issue.)

Sorry to go on so long here, but the question "How is it hurting you?" comes up so much nowadays in regard to legitimate political opinions that I think it's important to answer honestly and thoroughly.

Posted by: pittypat | October 11, 2006 6:08 PM

Snarky liberal --

I wasn't apologizing.

Posted by: pittypat | October 11, 2006 6:11 PM

no kidding, pittypat, hence the quotation marks around "apology."

And not that there's any apparent reason to give you free information given that pleasant attitude, but fyi, you do have standing as a taxpayer to challenge the use of taxmoney for religious purposes. First Amendment challenges are one of the fex exceptions to the general rule against taxpayer standing.

Posted by: snarky liberal | October 11, 2006 6:20 PM

Sky report for Pat:

Wed, 6:24 pm, DC area. Sky is overcast and heavy grey. You can see billowing heavy clouds fairly low in the sky. Night is falling early because the clouds are so thick. The city traffic creeps by in its tired, evening parade.

Posted by: Rockville | October 11, 2006 6:27 PM

Divorced mom of 1:

I'm the one with a homeschooled kindergartener. You managed to hit on another stereotype-- the idea that homeschooling parents have an unhealthy attachment to their kids, or vice versa. My kids and I are fine with being apart, but we're also fine being together.

We're homeschooling for a bunch of reasons, among them are: giving my kids more freetime than the school day would allow, letting them learn at their own pace, and not being stuck living on the school's schedule.

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | October 11, 2006 6:30 PM

After hitting send, I realzied I may have put words in Divorced Mom of 1's mouth-- if that's the case, I apologize.

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | October 11, 2006 6:32 PM

And since the issue is being discussed, Scarry, I would add this as to why tax exemptions for religious organizations are an issue.

It is not just about whether an individual like pittypat agrees or disagrees with a particular religion, providing financial support to religious organizations goes to the core of a democratic society that protects freedom of religion. The First Amendment prohibition on making laws establishing religion was intended to protect all individuals from having a state-imposed religion by prohibiting the government from passing any laws that would promote one religion over another. This also prohibits promoting religious belief over atheism or a belief system that is not aligned with a particular religion.

Although providing financial benefits to religious organizations may seem minor, it is the classic slippery slope. Enforcing the First Amendment prohibition strictly serves to protect religious freedom for all, not just individuals who do not support particular religious beliefs.

Posted by: snarky liberal | October 11, 2006 6:33 PM

Two things:

First -
Here's my experience about the difference between public high school versus elite private high school (circa 1979): Richer kids means better drugs. Plus, because everyone thought we were so clean cut (and private schools can more easily hush up such things), no one ever questioned what we were doing in the woods. Oh well.

Posted by: me | October 11, 2006 6:37 PM

Thank you, snarky liberal. I will look into that.

By the way, your comment to scarry -- "It is not just about whether an individual like pittypat agrees or disagrees with a particular religion" -- while true, ignores the context of the discussion between scarry and me.

I was answering her question, "How does it hurt you?"

But thank you for taking on the larger issue of how it hurts society, in general.

Posted by: pittypat | October 11, 2006 6:43 PM

Ugh, yes that is a pretty lousy set-up. It might be the state laws, or it might be the school system itself.

My teacher friends aren't detailed about budgetary concerns, but they are pretty outraged that NCLB sets up extravagant goals, adds to more test prep and less time for teaching etc. and doesn't even add any funding whatsoever for those concerns.

I absolutely agree with you about teachers missing too much time in class. That's extra money for substitute teachers which is otherwise unnecessary, drains the budget and slows down learning.

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 11, 2006 6:46 PM

Private schools' primary reason for being is to preserve and promote the plutocracy, and to be sure that Biff and Muffy don't have any difficult days, hard courses, or bad grades.

What happens if and when Biff and Muffy enter the real world? Exactly!

Thank you!

Posted by: JayoBlade | October 11, 2006 6:47 PM

no problem, pittypat; I recognize perfectly well that your response was individual, my remark was intended to simply distinguish our responses, not to ignore yours.

Posted by: snarky liberal | October 11, 2006 6:50 PM

Geez Pitty - Did your blood sugar drop suddenly? I won't go into a littany of Democrats with "moral" problems, or legal problems - we all know who they are.

I will stand by my comment that the Democratic Party touts themselves as the the party of minorities and the underpriveleged. Is that a surprise to you? Usually Liberals embrace this. What DOES your party stand for, if I may ask?

Posted by: cmac | October 11, 2006 6:58 PM

What happens if and when Biff and Muffy enter the real world?

I won't bunch all private schools in one heap, but I must say your generalization is inaccurate. I went to a private high school where the coursework was extraordinarily challenging. Homework was very heavy. We were encouraged to take part in many extracurriculars so our schedules were very busy. I took 6 AP classes and passed all of them with the highest grades by the time I graduated from high school. When I went to college, I had a very easy time in comparison to some of my public school classmates. I was used to working and had already developed good study skills. And the college I attended was very competitive.

Posted by: Rockville | October 11, 2006 6:58 PM

Hey Pittypat and snarky liberal (love the name),

Thanks for the info and I truly understand how you feel. However, there is also another side to this debate. Some people, not me, think that their tax dollars shouldn't be used to fund places like Planned Parenthood. These activities are against their religion. My only point was that everyone pays taxes for something they don't agree with and I don't see that changing anytime soon. I ask some of my friends the same question that I ask pittypat, how does Planned Parenthood hurt you. They seem to have the same reply that you guys do, so I guess I didn't articulate it well enough. My main point was that the feelings you have go both ways and all ways. You guys have a good night, I am off to school!

Posted by: scarry | October 11, 2006 8:08 PM

Hey Pittipat and Snarky Liberal, thanks for livening up the blog. It was getting pretty boring with all that serious stuff.

P.S. I just used the handle 'Former liberal now nothing' but I quess I could have posted as 'Former liberal know nothing'. It doesn't mean that liberals know nothing, it means that I no longer know what to think.

Posted by: Former liberal now nothing | October 11, 2006 8:50 PM

i would like to thank you all who spent the time to contribute a few words on the ADHD subject. Understandingly, it would be stupid of me to base my diagnosis of my son's situation based on the postings of virtual internet strangers, but somehow I feel I got an honest, candid insite on the "disorder" from real people who care about others who suffer from this syndrome. I appreciate that.

Rockville, you made my day with the sky report. Someday I'll bump into you and we'll do coffee, right? I'll need a little help though, I'm not very good at finding places...

Posted by: Father of 4 | October 11, 2006 9:29 PM


I was not able to post yesterday, but I really hope that you check back to see this.

I was never able to be a SAHM and my husband didn't have flexibility with his job, so we agreed to live no further than 30 minutes from my workplace so that I could always get to the children quickly. The area immediately around my workplace was out of the question because the public schools had questions of safety for the children. We weren't interested in private schools. The next county had a reputation of having excellent public schools and the neighborhoods near the county line were within our 30-minute radius. So, we moved there. We didn't do any review of statistics, test scores, etc. We just thought that the kids would get a good education anywhere in the county.

There was a wide range of income levels in elementary school, including one small development of subsidized (Section 8)housing. When my daughter was in kindergarten, one of the richer SAHM's actually told the teacher which children should be removed because "they are holding back my son's progress". The kids were in K for 2 1/2 - 3 hours and she was SAH and had more time than those of us with outside jobs to help her son, but she still wanted other kids removed. I was appalled when she told me this. Her son was actually one of the top students and didn't seem to be suffering at all educationally. I decided to have a discussion with the teacher about the range of abilities in the class and how it must be hard to spend extra time with those who need it. Her response was "If we lose these kids now, what chance do they ever have?". That type of attitude was more important to me than worrying about whether or not my child was at the top.

The school held a meeting to explain grading for the early grades. K thru 2 was seen as a developmental period where children would progress at varying rates, but would all be expected to be at a certain level by the end of grade 2. They compared it to babies learning to walk. Some get there at 9 months and some at 14 months, but both are normal. By the end of kindergarten, some children could read, and some still had trouble with ABC's, but progression of skills was the important factor. There were a lot of parents who stressed out because their children weren't the top students. I know parents who got tutors for the kids because they were having trouble with Gifted/Talented (GT) classes. GT is 2 grade levels ahead; e.g. 6th grade math in 4th grade. My daughter tested for GT math and received the cut-off score, so she decided to try it. It was obvious from the start that it was over her head. after 4 weeks, we requested that she be moved down a level. The guidance counselor said that no one requests to move down, but many try to get their kids in GT even if they don't belong. Please don't do this to your children.

Anyway, that really doesn't address Maggie's question, so I'll continue in a new post.

Posted by: to Maggie | October 12, 2006 7:21 AM

Due to the magic of redistricting, my eldest daughter attended the top high school in the county. Over 90 % of the graduates go to college after graduation and the test scores are among the highest in the state. It is also one of the richest counties in the nation (We keep the median income down ;o)!

We had a lot of conflict with my daughter and a lot of it was because of the income disparities. Most of her friend's parents had individual incomes equal to or greater than our household income. And my daughter is materialistic. No matter how much we explained that she is very privileged and her friends are just more privileged, she really seemed to think that we were just being mean.

We take one vacation a year during summer vacation, by car, and by middle school she was asking why we don't go to Florida on spring break like her friends. She has friends with diamond earrings, designer clothes and handbags, and cars nicer than the ones my husband and I drive. Many times we said that if you have food, clothing, and shelter, your are living better than many, many people in the world. She could only see what her friends had that she didn't. She had one friend in circumstances similar to ours who had a different personality and didn't care about "things" the same way as my daughter. She had another friend in similar circumstances who accepted having less because she lived with a single mom (who made as much as my husband and I together). But my daughter really had a hard time with the different financial levels.

I liked most of the parents I met. I did see some snobbery, but most of the people were nice, just richer than we are. We bought a car for my daughter to use in senior year of high school, but made it clear that it was our car that she is allowed to use. she was responsible for her own insurance and gas. She was the only one of her friends who had to pay car insurance. Most of her friends did have jobs, but could do whatever they chose with the money. The parents continued to finance everything they always had. My daughter had to save for college, pay car insurance and gas, and pay for some of her social activities.

Long again, I'll post one more.

Posted by: to Maggie | October 12, 2006 7:41 AM

Another thing about stretching to live in a certain school district is the costs you may not consider until your kids actually get into school. Field trips are generally more expensive because there are more families who can afford it. The marching band enters a competition/performance during spring break. Every other year is a big trip. The small trip is to Orlando ($500) and the big trip was to Hawaii ($2300). I remember attending the meeting about the Hawaii trip trying to keep my mouth from falling open. One woman talked about what a bargain it was for everything you are getting for $2300. Our vacation budget for our entire family is $3000. It's tough when your child is left out because you can't afford it and when you have to choose between a wonderful opportunity for your child or an opportunity for the entire family. Especially when you have a child who really doesn't get why they can't do everything that the friends are doing. And rich schools don't do much fundraising.

OK - academically in a high performing school. Everyone seems to think that their child is very intelligent. My daughter is a bright girl, but not the top of the class. There was one subject in which she did poorly, one subject AP level and the rest were honors. She was somewhat of a lazy student and didn't always do her best. She was in a school of so many over-achievers, she really didn't have a good picture of her own abilities. She recognized that she would never reach the level of many of her classmates academically. For some students that may be an incentive to work harder, but for mine, it was a reason to relax and have more fun because "no matter what I do, I won't be that good, so why bother?" She eventually graduated with a 2.9 GPA and SAT's in the 600's in each part - above the state and national average, but she thought they were awful because so many of her friends scored in the 700's. Her class ranking based on her GPA was in the bottom 20% of the school, but she would have placed much higher in the rankings at any other school in the county. Because of her SAT's and the reputation of the high school she was able to get into the college of her choice.

I believe that she would have worked harder and had better grades if she was in a different school in the county and felt like she had more of a chance to be an academic star. And, many, many scholarships are based on GPA of 3.0 and higher or 3.25 and higher. So while I do believe that she received an excellent education that will serve as a good foundation for college, it was a rough road with many conflicts over performing well, materialism, and financially for us now with her college expenses. I really believe that she would have worked harder and done better in another school in the county and received just as good of an education. The curriculum is the same for all of the county schools. The difference is in the number of higher level courses. For example, they all offer AP, but the top-ranked school may have enough students to offer AP to 5 classes.

I found her school to be excellent for the high performers and special needs, but no better than any other school in the county for those kids in the middle.

They had teen pregnancy, alcohol, drugs (one recent graduate died from a drug overdose). Kids are kids and subject to the same temptations.

Posted by: to maggie | October 12, 2006 8:07 AM

One more expense - prom. We gave my daughter a budget of $550 and told her she would have to pay for anything over that amount. Expenses were dress, limo, hair, nails, shoes, dinner. (I personally thought that nails were unnecessary and that she could wear shoes she already had). There were girls in her group who spent $500 just on their dresses.

This was a lot of money for us with all the other expenses of senior year and college looming. However, I can understand my daughter being upset when friends asked where she got her dress and then dissed shopping at that particular store.

for those of you who believe that you just say no to your children, I agree 100%, but until you have lived through it you don't know how hard it is. It is hard when you are saying no because you can't and not just because you think it isn't right. It is hard when you know that 'no' is the right thing but you have a teenager who is strong-willed and doesn't accept 'no' easily.

Posted by: to maggie | October 12, 2006 8:18 AM

Father of 4 -

Check out a book called "The Out of Sync Child". It talks about kids who have sensory issues. For example, my son just bumps into things on purpose. He likes to slam into the couch, bump into the wall, people, etc. He's a sensory seeking child. He craves the full body sensory input that comes from these activities. He often had trouble in school with his teacher saying he bothered the other kids, wasn't paying attention, etc. After reading the book, we implemented several ideas and he is doing MUCH better in school. In a nutshell, we give him safe and appropriate ways to get the input he seeks...swimming, gymnastics, run around the block, swinging. These activities help him get what he seeks and he has learned to control his impulses and wait for the appropriate time/place.

Posted by: MOM2LED | October 12, 2006 9:37 AM

You were appalled at my comments on free/reduced lunch. Go ahead. Be appalled. But it is a statistic listed on wapo for each school in the area. You don't have to use it. Don't use test scores either, because sometimes they don't give the whole picture. But sometimes they do, especially when coupled with low grad rates, high incidencs of violence, etc. Check out the schools with 100% free lunch. They also have high violence rates. And if you could get off your liberal high horse and READ THE POST I was not suggesting it had a negative connotation. "You might shoot me for this, but I will say it anyway. Free lunch percentages. High percentages might mean nothing except you live in a high cost of living area and that x amount of kids QUALIFY for free or reduced lunch. That doesn't mean an impoverished school with violence, but it could." I said MIGHT. I said it COULD. So enjoy your moral outrage, because your reading comprehension bites.

Posted by: to kim p | October 12, 2006 9:47 AM

"I will stand by my comment that the Democratic Party touts themselves as the the party of minorities and the underpriveleged. Is that a surprise to you? Usually Liberals embrace this. What DOES your party stand for, if I may ask?"

cmac --

Well, at the moment, the Democratic Party seems a little confused about its mission.

Republicans, however, are pretty focused: they're trying deperately to hold on to their domination of Congress so that they can continue to steal from the poor and give to the rich...while all around them colleagues are going down in immoral smoke.

Seriously, though --

Yes, the Dems do stand for the poor and underprivileged. It was the Republican Congress in the mid-90s that eliminated so many social welfare programs, leaving the poor, disabled, undernourished, and mentally ill with no place to turn. Dems prefer to tax heavily and help society's weakest and neediest people, while Republicans simply want more money and more laws to help them keep it.

Sure, some Dems live in pretty nice houses and drive pretty fancy cars; and no, they don't necessarily live among those they seek to help. But they make it their business to provide for the poor, sick, and disenfranchised instead of finding ways to deprive them even further.

Then, there's the subject of Civil Rights. While Dems have a proven record supporting and furthering Civil Rights objectives, it was only a couple of years ago that the Senate Majority Leader waxed poetic on how great things would be now if segregationist Strom Thurmond's bid for the presidency had succeeded.

I could go on, but there's really no need. Democrats may not live the lives of those they try to help, but neither do they cheat them, steal from them, beat them down, and cast them aside. The same cannot be said of the Republicans.

Posted by: pittypat | October 12, 2006 10:25 AM

My girls did private elementary school despite Montgomery County PS's "rave reviews," because a tour of the public kindergarten prior to enrolling my first daughter revealed 30 kids to one flustered-looking teacher with half the boys running laps in the back of the room. After 4 years of quality preschool, my daughter was ready for real learning, which appeared unlikely to take place in that environment. A standard psych test then revealed a super-high IQ, so to the deal was sealed. How did I pay for it? I simply chose to view the tuition as a continuation of the $1500/month daycare I had been paying. Most private schools do offer tuition assistance, too, and you don't have to be poor as a church mouse to qualify. Better for me? No. All the at-home mommies keep bugging me to volunteer, athere's no bus, and aftercare runs only till 5:50 p.m.

Better for my kids? Definitely. I am trying my eldest at a public middle school this year just to take a breather, and am already disillusioned. On Back-to-School Night, the principal referred to the middle school years as "temporary insanity"...something to be survived, not relished. And my daughter reports that the kids in her Spanish class spend the hour throwing chalk, passing notes and dissing the teacher. This would never, EVER happen at a private school. Discipline and respect are simply not an issue. In summary: at private school, there is both a spoken and unspoken expectation of excellence. At public school, they are surprised when it occurs, simply because it's not the norm.

Posted by: Britwit | October 12, 2006 11:06 AM

Pittypat: Not sure what I expected as a response from you, but what I got was so oddly partisan that I don't know where to start. That you believe Republican's are the devil's spawn and Democrats are gifts from heaven is evidence that you are unreachable when it comes to the political reality of today, or the history of the parties. To say that the Democrats are the party of civil rights, when it is the republicans in Congress that voted the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act through for LBJ, is a just a twist of history and blatant lie.

I have personally never beaten, stolen from or cast aside anyone. You're not winning the hearts or minds of anyone with your posts - and I am sure you don't do much persuading otherwise.

I'll try not to pick any more fights with you, but I was looking for an honest discussion, which I did not receive.

Posted by: cmac | October 12, 2006 11:53 AM

Just to clarify to the poster who reminded me that there can be good art programs in public schools---my point was that I am looking for an integration of the arts with the curriculum so that every child is exposed to the arts and learns mastery within the arts. I chose the Waldorf school for that and am utterly pleased with the well-rounded nature of my kids education. I don't want my kids to just "choose" to be in band or take art, but to have music and art within the study whether they are doing history or geometry, botany or literature, and they get that at Waldorf and a whole lot more. For me public school, even when it has arts options, is too segmented and the overall methodological approach is too denatured for us, for what my family seeks.

But to enter this homeschooling debate, I own and operate a children's shop. Its fairly new so I'm the one behind the desk. Well, since I opened I've met more homeschooling moms and their kids and I tell you, there is no stereotype to fit into a mold. They're all so varied, have overlapping but unique reasons for choosing homeschooling, and all have their kids involved in various group learning sessions as well as extra-curricular activities. They talk me up at my shop about it all the time and really come off as informed, committed, humble and just trying to make something work in a complex world. Interestingly there was an AP article in The Post on Sept. 30 titled Colleges Coveting Home-Schooled Students. Read about it here:


Posted by: Dignity for Single Parents | October 12, 2006 12:07 PM

Scarry, I'm not sure how better to explain the difference, except that one involves the constitional prohibition on state-supported religion, and the other involves individual preferences. Freedom of religion is one of the bedrock principles of our nation, and particularly in this day and age, is a fundamental part of our conception of democracy. The other is an individual preference, one which is also probably balanced out by the fact that there are many other tax exempt organizations working in opposition to Planned Parenthood that get the same treatment.

Posted by: snarky liberal | October 12, 2006 5:40 PM

I'm amazed at the of the bigotry and prejudice that shows its ugly head around here.

Since some of you clearly don't realize it, evolution and science ARE TAUGHT at Roman Catholic schools. They also teach religion (which is verboten to mention in the public schools) in a different classroom. By having both, you have the balance that kids need and which they do not get in public schools.

Posted by: Rufus | October 13, 2006 9:20 AM

I do not have the time to read all of the comments about public vs private, but I did not read one comment coming from a public school teacher.
We live in Washington County, MD which is west of Hagerstown. It is a very rural area, very few public schools in our district have much diversity other than caucasion and christian. My husband has taught at St. James private school in Hagerstown, and now teaches at Smithsburg High School. I know he hates his job and is looking for another job I write this. He is tired of the lack of respect he recieves from his students. Almost everyday he gets told F you and gets called all kinds of names. His students steal from him and vandalize. His students don't listen and do not do the work they are told. He could fail at least 90% of his students if he wanted to get fired.
He writes at least 20 students up a day but nothing happens to them.
Now, the private school he taught at he loved. The students listened, were respectful and always did the work they were expected to do. Almost all of the students got into good colleges and some with scholarships.
What will we choose to do with our daughter when it is time for school? Well, if we can afford it, we will definitely send her to a private school. If we do not have the money I will home school. I know a lot of parents who home school, and the kids are intelligent, creative thinkers, independent, and are very socially skilled.
I would prefer to go back to work, since i am a school counselor, but i will make the sacrifice so I do NOT have to put my child into a public school.

Posted by: Kristina James | October 17, 2006 11:38 PM

i feel that public schools offer a huge advantage for both students and teachers. by participating in a public school program, students are guaranteed (at least in principal), a program that is aligned with state requirments, which in turn are somewhat aligned with the requirments that will be required for admission to a four-year university. does a private school guarantee that? further, a public school caters to the lifestyle of the modern day parent. five days a week, reasonable school hours, no pressure to donate to a church or other special-interest organization. public schools are in no way blind to bias, but at least they do not exist for the purpose of furthering a specific cause. i agree that private schools cater to a different audience. stay-at-home moms are obviously living in a household where there is a single income, most likely higher than the average household income of a public school parent. quite possibly a private school student lives in a household where financial resources allow the means to go to a private school. but does this guarantee the required devotion of time from the parent, both in the form of out-of-school homework help, as well as volunteer time at the school? in my experience, this is not always the case.

Posted by: page | October 22, 2006 1:42 AM

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