Private schools are expensive so why choose to send your child to one when the local public school is free, or at least pre-paid through taxes?
My parents were both public school teachers, and I attended public schools – Kindergarten through 12 grade. It was only during college and then, when I started teaching that I began to feel the difference and the value in a private school education.
The students at my college who had gone to private schools had a kind of academic confidence and comfort that eluded my public school experience – and I went to very good, very high achieving public schools. These private school students were able to connect with their professors as mentors and as guides. They were able to think and write at a deeper level – and not because they had been exposed to more complex ideas, I had taken AP course level work in high school too. I remember being jealous of the ease with which they made the jump to college life.
So why then? Why did they enter freshman year with these skills of connection, collaboration, and complex thought? Now that I’ve taught and worked in private schools for nearly 20 years, I think I know why. At good private schools each student, each child, is seen as an individual. The schools I’ve worked in, and the school’s I’ve sent my children to, care and nurture each child. Good private schools, and good public ones too, understand that the school’s work goes way beyond facts and figures, algorithms, and spelling words. Great schools nurture intellectual growth, academic growth, emotional growth, and creative expression. Being seen, being known and being cared for are key nutrients for growing a complex thinker, who can connect and collaborate with peers and professors alike.
I see every day in my school – Touchstone Community School – the ways that children are seen, nurtured and guided. I see how the template of teachers as mentors, and of school as a place to grow is developed and honed. One of our Touchstone parents put it this way:
I remembered … what I have known since we joined this community. Yes, the curriculum and approach to learning are extraordinary. Yes, the teachers are amazing. Yet, the real reason we are at this school is because of the little big things that happen all day, in every space of the school, and at every age level. Any time we choose to look, we can see examples of children who have grown from quiet, meek small people into confident, assertive community leaders. We see loud bossy children transforming into effective, respectful collaborators. We see reticent older students find their voices within a year of becoming a part of our community. At all ages and in all settings, we see acts of caring and compassion in the words spoken and the deeds done within this community.
Private school, and the cost of private school even with financial aid, may not be right for every family, or every child. But it is a gift for some. It is an invaluable gift I’ve chosen for my children, and with all the hardships and financial sacrifices, it has been worth it for me and for them. (Here is a YouTube video by the President of the National Association of Independent Schools about the value of Independent Schools.)
Touchstone is having an Open House next week. Come see. It may mean you are happy with the choices you’ve already made; it may make you wish for other choices. But it’s always important to know what the choices are.