March 16, 2012

Why I’m sending my kids to Public school

When some friends and neighbours realize that we are planning to send our kids to public school, horrified and comical looks creep over their faces. They are clearly appalled by our decision but just too polite to say anything. However, for us, it is a very important decision. We believe that the right public school is as good as most private schools out there and as parents, it is of course our ultimate choice where we send our kids to school.

Last summer, a neighbour and I were having a pleasant chat at the park while our kids were playing. She has two girls ages 8 and 10 who attend our neighbourhood private school. She waxed eloquently about the benefits of said school (which I do not dispute), and assumed I was going to send my kids there too. When I casually replied that I was planning on sending my son and my daughter to the local public school she went red in the face and started sputtering. She informed me that everyone in our part of the neighborhood sends their kids to the private school. I quite nicely said that I understand, but it’s important to us that we support the public school system. After all, I went to public school, and my husband went to public school and we turned out really well. I have a graduate school education from University of Toronto and my husband is a cutting edge Mechanical Engineer. If you really look at this with a critical eye, no matter how much you spend for an elementary, middle and high school education, most kids with the right supports in place end up at the exact same colleges and universities in Canada. So why bother breaking the bank to give your kids a leg up when they end up at the same post secondary schools anyway!

For me, it’s about choice. At this point in our lives, my husband and I are choosing to send our kids to public school. We feel like it is our right to make that decision and if our situation was different or if we lived in another part of the world, that would inform our decision making process and we might have come out of this with a different conclusion. Yet, at this juncture, we feel like we can actually do some good and help advocate for better resources within the public educational system.

There are many choices within our public schools. Our kids may to go to French immersion, art and music based schools, specialized schools for technology or environmental studies, just to name a few. There are so many options for parents out there and if academics are a non-negotiable criterion, then comb through the public school lists in your area based on their math and literacy scores (EQAO). You even have the choice to support the system by volunteering at your school of choice through school council, in the classroom, or through community liaison groups.

In addition, it is my belief that we cannot depend on the school to provide all of our children’s teaching. We need to supplement our kid’s education with extracurricular activities that help to round them out. For example, we’re planning on putting our kids into classical music lessons, team sports, swimming, summer camping, March break science camps and anything else their little hearts desire (that they’re willing to stick to of course).

Public school teachers are doing the best they can with the resources they are given. Parents who are supportive of the public school system need to join with teachers and school administrators to advocate for school reform. We need to step up, enrol kids in public school, be a part of the system and try to improve things from within.

I realize that our opinion is not quite the popular rhetoric in my neighbourhood. So be it. I’ve never been a fan of conformity. So the next time I’m asked on the playground or at a play-date if we are going to be sending our kids to our local private school, my answer will still be a strong and resounding ‘no’. There’s nothing wrong with private school, but we have decided that it is important for us to advocate and champion the public school in our area, both for our kids and the rest of their cohort. After all, if we abandon ship along with the other parents in our neighbourhood the local school will struggle even more, and we refuse to be culprits to that travesty.


How did you decide where to send your kids to school?  Was it the right decision for your family and what has been your experience so far?


  1. We homeschool our 4 kids…1 of which is now in college at the University of South Alabama. We chose this route for religious reasons, primarily. It has been a challenge at times, but has been wonderful. I love spending all that time with my children. I also love learning, loved school, spent 7 years in college myself, and like finding out new things. I wasn’t the best student in my younger years, so I learn a lot with my kiddos that I either never learned in public school, or I learned it for a test & then promptly forgot it! Happy SITS day!

    • Some of my friends out of town have a homeschooling co-op and I love to hear all the cool things they’re doing there. They inspired me to do early childhood homeschooling with my kids and I haven’t regretted it one iota.

  2. Amen to that!!!

    I too am a product of the public school system. I went to a private Catholic university, and I was floored by how much better my French Language education was compared to most who had come from the private schools.

    Public school, extra curricular activities and being actively involved in my child’s education is the path for my 6 year old son.

  3. Great post. I think what’s great about your decision is instead of just doing the “done thing” you and hubby have considered your personal priorities, value system and desires for your kids. It sounds like you have a solid plan and I love the point about parents supporting kids, I think that makes the biggest difference whether you go private or public school. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Coming from a background where paying for private school was not an option, I completely support your decision. Of course, I’m also assuming that the public schools in Canada are better than the ones in the US… it’s a crying shame, actually, that children whose parents have no money have to get subjected to a substandard education because nobody in this country wants to invest money into public schools.

    • We have some wonderful public schools here in Ontario and parents have a choice to send their kids outside of their home schools to arts, sports, technology, environmental based public schools in the surrounding area.

  5. Happy SITS Day! Anyway, whatever the decision, I believe every mother just wants the best for their kids 😉

  6. good for you and your husband for sticking to your guns! We need to support the public schools! I went to public schools and still managed to go to an excellent university and study Engineering…sounds crazy right?! As if someone who attended a public school couldn’t possible get into the same colleges or universities as someone who went to a private school. As you’ve mentioned, parents have to get involved for their kids to be well rounded. Again good for you! Stopping by from SITS

  7. You make some very good points. I wonder how much the schools differ in Canada from the US? My daughter is in 1st grade and we chose an independent school for her. She is very creative and artistic, and smart, but, in my opinion would get bored and overwhelmed by all the tests they have to do here. I’m visiting from SITS, I’m going to have a wander around your site… I think I saw a mention of organic food…

    • From what I’ve heard, I think the school system in the US might be quite different from that here in Canada. I’d be fascinated if someone did a comparative study to see what’s working in both countries and where the system needs support.

      • yeah, I just noticed the Kindergarten starts at 3 there? I could barely let go of my daughter fro K at 5.5.

        • We thought about holding her back an extra year but they would have still put her in SK because that’s her official cohort. It was tough to send her but I talked to every kindergarten teacher friend I know about strategies I could implement to get her comfortable and excited with the idea of school. We even took a ‘getting you child ready for kindergarten’ workshop in the summer. By the time she started school, our little family was as prepared as possible for this new transition for all of us.

  8. This is a great post. I’ve worked in education for 14 years; nine of those as a 7th and 8th grade teacher. I work in the charter school system–which is a public school even though many don’t think it is. It is. Meanwhile, my daughter is three and I’m considering home-schooling her much to everyone’s shock since I’ve worked in education so long.

    I think what it really comes down to is that parents need to research school choices above and beyond, “it’s what everyone in the neighborhood does,” “I heard that was the best school,” “I heard that was a terrible school,” etc. etc. It is a parents job to know how their child learns best, what their child’s best effort looks like (and then hold them to it), and how the schools that they can pick from are meeting the standards of education for where they live.

    When parents pick schools based on hearsay, feelings, stereotypes, and gossip they are failing their kids. For goodness sakes, most adults put more research time into what makes a really good car for the family than their child’s education and that is crazy!

    There are positives and negatives to every school choice and it’s our job to weigh out the options; with intelligent research……….not gossip at the neighborhood park. Way to go making a choice that you knew was best for your child, and not what your local culture deemed appropriate!

    Happy SITS Day!

    • Thanks Maggie, that was well said. Before my daughter was born I was on the school district website analyzing and comparing elementary test scores in our area. My friends good-naturedly chuckled and shook their heads because no one else in our group would plan that far ahead in such a detailed way.

      I completely agree with you. I would have put lots of energy into purchasing a family car (I have done so), it seems ridiculous that I wouldn’t put as much effort into researching the best options for my child(ren). I think we have SO many educational options out there. It’s important that we decide to take the option to ultimately choose what’s best for our family!

  9. I know all too well what the spluttering is all about – for my husband and I decided the best option for our children is to homeschool them (for now, anyway)…and we get all kinds of raised eyebrows for our decision to do so. I wasn’t particularly happy with our local public school (and if I am being completely honest the public school system in general (no disrespect to you or any teachers reading this post), and the closest private school is a min. of 45 minutes away. So until we move (if that is actually going to happen), this is the best choice for my family. The right to choose is a beautiful thing!

  10. Thank you for sharing you story and choice to send your children to public schools. My oldest daughter is autistic and when she was first diagnosed, I thought sending her to a private school would be best. Once I found out how much it is to educate a special needs child, I decided to send her to public school and she has been an outstanding student throughout her school years. She is a junior in high school and we are deciding what she will do once she graduates. Both my girls are doing wonderful in school, I go to all meetings, anything related to my girls, I tell teachers that I’m a hands on mom and call me whenever they need something or have an issue with my girls. Happy SITS Day!

  11. Yes, I am a firm believer in public school as well. I feel depressed that I may end up sending my children to private school because here in New York, the system is such a huge mess. My husband and I both went to public school as well, but in the suburbs. I don’t know. We have an infant, so it’s not quite front-of-mind yet, but I applaud your decision and look forward to seeing how it turns out.

    Happy SITS Day!

    • Honestly Deb, I think it’s all about choice. If we lived somewhere else in the world we might have made a different decision. You have to do what’s best for your children; and you’ll know what it is when the time comes.

  12. Happy SITS day! I’m also a former public school teacher turned SAHM & I agree. We have no beef with public schools either. We are homeschooling my oldest right now, but we are doing it through an online public charter school. You would not believe the backlash from the traditional home school community. I wasn’t prepared for there to be a whole new mommy wars battle about school choice, but it is definitely there! Kudos to you for standing up for your beliefs. It can be hard to go against the grain when everyone thinks they are doing the right thing.

  13. I’d love to send my kids to private school but it just isn’t in our budget right now. I’ve had family offer to help but I rather do it myself

  14. I so agree with you! My children went to public school and they are doing just fine! They also had the opportunity to interact with people of all kinds of backgrounds and I think that will serve them in good stead as adults. Happy Sits day, by the way!

  15. I wish our school district was a wonderful as that. We don’t have ANY choices in our children’s education other than public school and homeschooling. My daughter has ADHD, dysgraphia and a math learning disorder and our schools leave a LOT to be desired in that aspect.

    • I have a huge amount of respect for homeschooling moms! You knew what the right decision was for your child and you did it. It’s all about choice, isn’t it Jennifer.

  16. Yay public-school love! I went to public K-12 schools – and when I got to college, the kids who came from the Country Day or boarding schools had no academic-performance edge over me and my kind.

    • That’s exactly how I feel about college and university here in Ontario. They level the playing field and anyone from any school gets a chance to bust open a can of over-achieving whoop a** on the unsuspecting masses of classmates! 🙂

  17. “Public school teachers are doing the best they can with the resources they are given. Parents who are supportive of the public school system need to join with teachers and school administrators to advocate for school reform. We need to step up, enrol kids in public school, be a part of the system and try to improve things from within.”

    I completely agree. I have tried the route of charter school, private school & ended up finding the best structure at public school. My husband and I are both products of the US public school system as well (I, from Philadelphia, He from New York). And I find we both amounted to productive & successful individuals. My children have received the necessary enrichment and support to nurture an eagerness to learn. They are well rounded in academics, the arts, socially & culturally. While I once thought charter or private school would be a better option, experience has proven that it is not for everyone. We have built a strong foundation of values within our home and family, and keep an open communication with our children’s educators, maintaining an active involvement in their education.

  18. It is absolutely about choice and what works for you and your family. Like others have said, no one should be made to feel guilty about that choice. This is a really great post and thank you for sharing YOUR choice with us. Happy SITS Day!

  19. My son’s teacher this year thanked me for sending him to the public school. I believe in them. Truly. They are an important part of our city, our world… here where I live there has been a real “higher socioeconomic flight” from the public schools. Therefore, the public school is filled with English Language Learners or kids from poor families. There are many problems, but the children are all awesome and the programs are exceptional.

    I know all about the sputtering thing. It’s kinda crazy….happy SITS day!

  20. I had my kids in a Charter School for a while which is still a public education. When it came time for High School, I moved them to their regular public High School. On the social aspect, I think we definitely need to support the public school system. So many people pull their children not because of a better education but because of a better social environment. If everyone did that, then the public schools could loose that influence for goodness that our Children can provide. Does that make sense? Just my thoughts…

    • It totally makes sense Lisa. Kids have the power to positively influence their school environment. Just like you, I want my kids to go to school and get a good education and I want them to take every opportunity to let their light shine.

  21. First, Happy SITS Day! Second, this post immediately drew my attention. I have three children and two are already in the public school system. I agree with many of your points, especially around our kids’ educations not falling solely on the shoulders of the schools. My husband is actually a teacher and he often tells me for a successful school journey you need three things … engaged parents, solid teachers and kids who have their heads in the game. On any given year, you may have one those pieces missing, but he says as long as you have two of the three, your child will make it. We re-evaluate our decision on a yearly basis since our state has been hit hard with budget cuts, but so far, so good.

  22. Great post! I agree that public schools need our support! Happy SITS day!!

  23. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about your decision. From my vantage point across the border, I always thought Ontario’s school systems were tops.

  24. I completely agree that it is a family’s personal choice and there is no right or wrong- only what works best for a particular family. I have friends who home school and friends who go the private route and I also have wonderful teacher friends who I would be honored to have as my child’s teacher. We are going to give the public school route the benefit of the doubt as my husband and I are both products of public school- him in Europe and me in the US- and we both turned out well with Post Graduate degrees. But I know it’s a different time today and if I ever feel there is a problem I won’t hesitate to protect the best interests of my child and pursue and different choice. I also agree it is up to the parents to be active in and supplement education at home. That’s the beauty- everyone can decide what works for them. Happy SIT’s day!

  25. In our area there aren’t a lot of private schools. I wouldn’t have been interested in one anyway. My kids are 14-21 now and have done all their pre-college studies in public schools. We were fortunate to have a great elementary school a couple blocks from our house. My kids also participated in extracurricular activities (still do) and were supported and taught at home. They are very bright and excel at almost everything the try. While I believe they are genetically predisposed to be fast learners, I also know that their great elementary teachers — public school teachers — primed the pumps well.

    Way to be secure in your choice. You are their mother. You know your kids. Trust your heart.

  26. I feel so fortunate to live in an area where the public schools are outstanding. I guess we didn’t really choose where to send our kids to school… Instead we chose where to live based on the schools. Actually, my husband and I graduated from the same school district that our boys will go to. We were both very pleased with our education and didn’t even consider private schools for the kids. Congrats on being featured on SITS!

  27. As a teacher who has taught in both public and private, I love this post. Parents are the first teachers of their children and you express it so well. Public schools need our support. Thank you again. Happy SITS Day.

  28. Aspgriswold says:

    Love this post!! Happy SITS day!!!

  29. Good for you in making a choice that’s right for your family and not succumbing to the pressure of the neighborhood. Why is this such a touchy subject for Moms? I wish we could stop being offensive in stating our schooling choice and just support one another. Really, who cares? When at a job interview or meeting a new person at a dinner party one doesn’t often inquire- “Yes, but what Elementary school did you attend?”

  30. I am a mom and I have been a public school and private school teacher. I totally agree with you that it is a personal decision that the parents make based on their lifestyle and children. In California, our public schools offer more advanced placement classes and more clubs/creative outlets. The public schools in our area are a great fit for outgoing students who can handle their own in a large group. On the other hand, our private schools offer small class sizes and a more individualized education plan for students who struggle with shyness, bullying, or academic difficulties. I love that you know your family and you know your schools and support what is best for them without just going with the crowd. PS Happy SITS Day!

    • It’s not easy to go against the neighbourhood grain Emily, but we know our kids need us to be their biggest ally and that means making the right choices for them, not the popular choice with our neighbours.

  31. My husband and I too also send our kids to public schools. I completely agree with you that the RIGHT public school is just fine. They are not all created equal. We originally planned to homeschool so when we made the switch we were lucky we are in an area with a great school. We are planning a move within the next couple of years and the public schools available will have a HUGE impact on our decision making in purchasing a home.

    Stopping by from SITS!! =)

  32. GOOD FOR YOU, don’t follow like a sheep, do what’s best for your family. We will be sedning our son to public school, even if we had money we would still send him to public school. I went to a private elementary and high school and it was horrible. I know he’ll learn more in a public school and be exposed to many different experirences.

    Stopping by from SITS.

    • Thank you SO much for the support Karen! Brie has started JK at our local public school and I’m glad I made that decision. Her teachers are great and she’s thriving!

  33. Oh schooling is a tough one. I’ve found, my girls are also 8 and 10, that the personality of your kids, the desires of the parents, and external circumstances make this decision a year by year thing. We were strong public school supporters. Our oldest attended K-4 there. Then things happened, we changed, and now we homeschool! Every family is unique and must make this decision for themselves. I am sorry about the judgmental attitude of your neighbor. And I want to warn you, if you really do all the extra curricular things, you will be crazy busy! Happy SITS day.

    • Thanks for the good advice Laura. We’ve decided that the only extracurricular activity that will be year round is violin lessons. Everything else (swimming, skating etc.) will be seasonal with the option of taking a season off. Thanks for stopping by for a visit. 🙂

  34. LOVE THIS POST! I am so glad that there are people out there who are supportive of public schools and their teachers. Now, I know things are different from here in western New York – but not a whole lot. And I’m a public school teacher! I know how hard I work, how hard most public school teachers work. And here I know there is a lot of pressure to be better, do better, do more with less. It just means a lot to hear people publicly say this! OH, and I think French Immersion would be an awesome choice (I teach English as a second language) and I wish I had an opportunity to actually be bilingual from a much younger age!
    Stopping by from SITS – have a happy SITS day!

    • Thank you SO much for your perspective Jolene! Teaching ESL is difficult but rewarding, thank you for investing in newcomer kids in this way in spite of the lack of resources! I love hearing about teachers like you!

  35. Good for you! Happy Sits Day!

  36. I wonder why they react that way, but what matters most is your decision and its your kids future. Its not their kids at all. Just go go go if its for the betterment of your kids. We all have our own differences and we all deserve to go for what is right for our kids.

  37. we all have to do what works best for us…who cares what other people think? parents are the primary educators of their kids anyway.

  38. Good for you. School choice is a personal opinion. My son goes to public school, though we are fortunate the public schools in our area are outstanding. My niece / nephew go to private school because the public schools in their town are not very good. It’s important we don’t judge others. You are right on that schooling doesn’t end in the classroom, it begins and ends at home. We are partners with our kids’ teachers and pay a huge role in their overall education.

  39. Yahoo! As a California public school teacher, I commend your position. Private schools have some kind of crazy aura about them that makes people think they are ‘better’. Some are, some aren’t. Parents need to decide what is right and best for their child-just like you are doing!

  40. It’s silly that those people are so judgmental… To a lot of people, the school you send your kids to is a status symbol, but that is not what it should be!! My daughter is only 3 right now but I figure we’ll try public school for kindergarten. She went to a private preschool this year and it didn’t agree with her. Too much structure and too young an age. I’m open to trying private or homeschooling later on but we’re giving public school a go first. I have to figure out what the schools are like around here, I think they are pretty good though, so hopefully it works out for us. 🙂

  41. I think it’s great that you made this decision for your kids. Just because everyone does something, doesn’t mean it’s right for you.


  42. I agree it depends on the parents choices. I know for myself I could never home school. I was home schooled and had a very bad experience with it. So I could never do it. I’m not against homeschooling. I know a lot of people that are doing amazing things homeschooling. It just isn’t me. My children are in public school and doing excellent. My oldest is in the gifted program and his younger siblings are right on his heels. Good post.

    • Every parent has to make the best choice for their family. You knew that homeschooling your kids wasn’t the right choice for you but it’s the right choice for some other families. I have been doing early childhood ‘homeschooling’ with my kiddies and it’s been going really well. JD has been recognizing words and saying them since he was 18 months and Brie is a fan of big words like hypothesis and microorganism. But I know that Public school is the best bet for our family and I’m willing to take a stand even if I’m in the minority amongst my neighbours.

  43. My kiddos are in the public school system and are thriving. I also know many families that homeschool and their kids are thriving. I really think it boils down to our parenting choices. We all have to do what we feel is best for our family and our community. 🙂

    *Stopping by from Triberr to make sure this was indeed your post. Haha!


  44. We are sending our almost 5 year old twins to public school in the fall. I went to a private school from 1st – 8th grade and loved it, having said this I would add that private school does not = zero issues or immunity from life happening. The bonus from a private school is the faith based learning that happens and the smaller numbers in the classrooms. We would love to send our kiddos to private school but the public school is literally 1 minute from our house and we pay almost $6,000 in school taxes and it seems a little ridiculous to pay more money out of our pocket to send them to a private school when our public school has such a great school system. I think the best advice I would give to others is not to listen to the horror stories that other parents give. Go with what will work best for your life, your childrens lives, and what you believe in your heart is the best fit.

  45. I totally agree with you on this one. I have absolutely NOTHING against private schools (I went to one as a child), and nothing against homeschooling moms. It is the parents decision, and no-one should be made to feel bad, or guilty for the decision that they make. My daughter (age 6 1/2) goes to public school. She is in the 1st grade. My preschooler (who turned 4 today) goes to a Private Christian Preschool. When she turns 5, she will go to the same public Kindergarten Center that her sister went to.
    I made this choice because the public schools in this area are very good. (If they were horrible, then well, my opinion might be different.) I do however believe that we should support the public schools in our community….to make them a better place to be. Parents should take an active part, and help out in any way they can, as well.
    I believe, like you said that we should not solely leave it up to the education system to teach our kids. As for my girls spiritual well being, we teach them, we go to church and they participate in Awana Club.
    Sorry, if I am rambling…haha. I could go on & on. I know how you feel on this, and I agree! 😉

    • Thanks for your support Sandy! You think you’re over being pressured by your peers when you leave high school but then you encounter it in strange situations as an adult. It feels good to stand firm and make my own choices about my kids schooling and not let popular rhetoric in my neighbourhood sway my decision. Btw, it was great to read about your decision making process about your daughters schooling.

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