Private Vs. Public for Kindergarten (Kinda Long, Sorry!)

Updated on March 09, 2012
K.B. asks from Detroit, MI
14 answers

Our daughter will be turning 5 in August and will be starting kindergarten this fall. Our school district's elementary schools are good, but there have been issues at the middle and high schools with overcrowding, kids with discipline issues, etc. From talking with other parents, I know many who are fine with their kids going to the elementary schools and have had good experiences, but have reservations about the middle and high schools. For this reason, DH and I discussed the possibility of private school, and we like one in particular that is near our home. It happens to be a private Catholic school, and the religious aspect is not a priority for us, and at the same time, there are many students who go there that are not Catholic, and not necessarily even Christian (some are Hindu, some are Muslim, etc). I like that it is a little more diverse, but at the same time, they expect more from the kids both academically and morally, and the classroom sizes are smaller. They also require uniforms. A friend of ours is one of the athletic trainers at the high school level and they send their daughter there, and they are very happy with it.

DH and I have been going back and forth though about whether to send her there for kindergarten, or wait until 1st grade. His big concern, of course, is money, and at least trying to save a year's tuition by waiting until 1st grade (we CAN afford it, but it's still a concern for him). I thought it would be best to send her for K so she can make friends and get used to her new school from the beginning. I compromised by trying to get her into K where she has been going for preschool for the past 2 years. That school is still part of our public school district and "school selection" allows us to try to get her to go to K wherever we wish, so long as there is space available. Where she has been going to preschool also did kindergarten, but not anything more than that. I figured in order to avoid her having to get used to changing schools again, and to avoid the tuition costs of K at the private school, we could have her do K there, then send her to the private school, since she would have to go someplace else anyway.

I put in my request as early as possible (first week of January) and I just got a letter yesterday that stated that the building where she's been going to preschool will no longer be offering kindergarten and her registration has been sent to the elementary school where she would be going based on where we live. DH and I are still undecided as to what we want to do. We don't need to make any decisions immediately, but I am wondering what others might think in this situation. Like I said, the elementary schools are good, but crowding and budget cuts are always an issue and I figured the sooner DD was started in private school, the better. In both places, the school day would be the same (full day kindergarten, 8am to 3 pm).

So what do you think would be best? A) Just bite the bullet on the tuition costs and start her at the private school for kindergarten? B) Have her go the "new" public school for K and then have to get her used to a whole other school for 1st grade? or C) Just start her at the pubic school and keep her there until 4th or 5th grade, and THEN switch her over to the private school? (Both schools start middle school at 6th grade - I know some parents start the kids at 4th or 5th grade to give them the extra year or 2 to get used to it and make a better transition to middle school. The private school curriculum is more accelerated and advanced than the typical public school curriculum).

I am willing to at least give K a try, then go from there...I just don't know how hard it will be on her to switch schools (at ANY point), but I also know at least we can send her to the private school at any time if there is anything we are not happy with. TIA!

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So What Happened?

Like I said, money isn't that much of an issue, we can afford it, DH just isn't sure if this is something we should be spending it on - and mostly he's getting hung up on the one year of kindergarten, not her entire grade school career (and the college fund is already established, so it's not like we totally need the tuition money for college instead!). The public elementary school is decent, it's just convincing hubby that it is worth it that is a challenge, and I know what I want, but I am trying to listen to him too. His reaction to the news about not being able to send DD to kindergarten at the preschool was a sarcastic, "Oh, great..."

To answer some questions: she is our only child, no other kids to have to pay tuition for. And we don't have any plans to move any time soon - we only just moved back here (my home state) from out east (his home state) 3 years ago. I don't think getting her in at a later time would be an issue, but you never know. Most of the class sizes are only 15 to 18 kids (and there's just one class per grade) while this year's 5th grade class ended up with 30 kids because of parents wanting to get them enrolled just before middle school.

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answers from Tulsa on

Put her in the school she will be in. Switching in 4th is horrible. My straight A child struggled to play catch up in all areas.

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answers from New York on

I grew up in a private school and will tell you this from the "student" perspective...

MOST of us started in Kindergarten and stayed together until graduating from HS. Just like public schools, private schools (good ones) have a coherent instructional philosopy that starts in Kindergarten.

Just a thought... three schools in three years? That's a LOT of change for a young child. I would (if you can swing it), make your choice now and stick with it until circumstances or your child's needs change. A mid-year transition is really very tough. Private schools with an accelerated curriculum pace (even in Kindergarten) are often opposed to having children start mid-year because of instructional gaps. Better to start at the beginning of a school year.

Good luck! I work as a public school administrator and our children will be attending the parochial school for many of the reasons you have indicated.

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answers from Boston on

If money is an issue (and isn't it for most of us?) I would delay private school until middle school. My private school elementary education (Catholic school) sucked and wasn't worth a penny of what my parents paid. My private high school though was worth its weight in gold. I would save your money in the younger grades (where public schools have better resources for things like kids reading at different levels, etc.) and then switch later.

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answers from Amarillo on

I think that you should bite the bullet and go to private school from kindergarten on. Why? I say this because the classes are smaller, the instructor has a chance to get to know the style of teaching necessary to help the child and that she will get a better start in her education career.

My children (son) started public school but finished his school in the DODDS system (military schools). My daughter transferred back in junior high to public school and was fine. When she got to high school she got bored because many of the things that they were covering she had learned in the other systerm.

Transition is always hard but it is harder going from public to private at a later date because of the catch up. The private to public also causes the child to be bored is they are in a class but the work has been done already and they get into mischief. (Been there done that one as well both ways.)

Do what you feel best for the child and her thurst for knowledge. I wish my parents were able to send me to a private school where I could/would have been able to focus or expand my abilities and to find what I really wanted to do and go for it with no holds barred.

Whatever you will do well by your daughter.

The other S.

PS Now I am an older momma and I still don't know what i want when I grow up (maybe I have the Peter Pan syndrome).

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answers from New York on

I can relate... Couple of questions. Are you 99% sure you're still going to be in the same house etc in 5 years? Do you have multiple kids so the tuition's really going to add up or it's just your daughter and you can afford it? Is it just this Catholic school you'd be looking at in 5th/6th grade or others too? Can you pretty easily get into them in 5th/6th grade or is there much risk she won't get in just bc everyone wants to do this and then you're stuck? If you're going to stay in your house and there's a decent amount of risk you can't get her into a top choice in 5th/6th and the tuition isn't all that big a deal now, I'd send her in K. We are in a similar situation but went with public bc no Catholic is a great option for us based on the commute time and quality isn't obviously better, our elementary is quite good despite bigger classes now than there used to be, it's right down the street from us and we wanted our kids to make local friends vs drive all over for playdates. In addition, I'm not sure we'll still be living where we do in several years so the upside of getting our kids all set in the private isn't as big as maybe we'll move anyway. That's always been my plan... But going our route means there's always this uncertainty and eventually we'll have to definitely uproute them for a nonpublic school. Other points to consider are the first couple of years of school you can teach at home. Not home school but you can make sure she's learning enough so I wouldn't worry too much about the quality of K or 1st grade but I would go for K at Catholic if that's your very likely plan for 1st or even 4th to get her established. Hope that helps. I know exactly where you're coming from.

ETA: no brainer than to me if the main issue is 1 year of tuition... It's not a lot in the grand scheme of things and sounds like you can pretty easily afford it. And I know there's the chance of waiting till she's in 4th grade to do the switch but that's not optimal when you know you're goign to do it. Tell your husband you'll drive your current car for an extra 2 or 3 years to cover it. Something like that. I'm the main breadwinner so can make these decisions more easily and we can afford private too just fine but I will say sometimes one expense just eats at me. It's irrational. So if that's kind of how your husband is being - just so focused on this one year of tuition, find a way to cover the cost and then likely he'll forget about it in a year if it's not money you really need.

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answers from Austin on

ALWAYS follow your mommy heart and brain.. It is telling you what is best for your child.

We have good schools in our neighborhood. Of course you will always hear about behaviors etc in middle and high school it is the nature of the beast,.. But I promise, the students that are good students with strong parent influence are always going to do great.

I believe in supporting the neighborhood schools for lots of reasons..

First, these people are your neighbors! You become a close community when your children attend school close by.. Especially for all of the years they are in school.

Also since you all live close together.. play dates, school events, social events etc.. are close by. No having to drive across town to drop off your child for a sleep over. No having to drive all the way over for weekend events or night time meetings. Or having to get up earlier because you have to drive away from your neighborhood to drop off your child.

Being active as a parent in the neighborhood schools is an investment.. The better you help make your schools, the better the school will do and bring up your property values.

Saving money for college.. Our daughter is at a private college . It costs, $58,000 now a year for her to attend this college. This 2012.. Your child will be attending in 2025.. imagine how much that is going to be and how much you will save if you stick to the public schools?

Again our daughter attended a middle school and a High school that for whatever reason had this "inner city" label.. The only inner city is that it is not 90% Anglo students like the private schools, There was a lot of diversity.

Some of the parents flee with their children for middle school because they were "afraid of what their children would be exposed to." ie: people not like themselves.

.. We had the 2nd largest group of National Merit Scholars graduate from our daughters Public high school in the city. Percentage wise it was above the percentage for the elite private schools..

As I said, a student that is an excellent student is always going to do great.

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answers from Dover on

If you don't intend to send her to your public school after 1st grade, but rather to the private makes sense to send her to the private school right from the start.

My daughter is attending the Pre-K at our local Catholic school only because she was too bored at her current preschool (per the administrator and teacher) but was too young to start K (December birthday). We are not Catholic but at this age, the differences in concepts are not too much. As they grow, what is expected does change and although still Chrisitan can be contradictory. It is a great school and I love their program but even if I could afford it, I don't think she would continue there...Christian school? yes, Catholic school? no. For me that is just because the religious aspect is too strict in my opinion for those that are not of the same religion.

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answers from Chicago on

I say that if you don't plan on keeping her in public school when she's in middle school, start her at the private school now. Changing schools can be very unsettling for kids. Some kids adjust easily, but others do not. I have a daughter in 4th grade who has never handled change very well. I am so glad we started at the Catholic school when she was in preschool. She has been at the same building and with all of the same kids all of these years. She is very well adjusted and happy there. My son is currently in kindergarten there and we couldn't be happier with the curriculum and discipline. There are quite a few rambunctious kids, but his teacher is firm and definitely in control of that classroom. He will be more than ready for first grade next year.

So, coming from someone who is a major advocate for Catholic education, send her to the Catholic school!!!

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answers from Minneapolis on

Money may not be an issue, but academics will be if you try to split her educational experience between two settings. Based on personal experience, there IS a difference where academics is concerned. I went to public first then was sent to a parochial school in late elementary and spent the rest of my private school years well through high school trying to "catch up." There were lots of "holes" in what I learned at public school, and should have already learned by the time I got to my new private school.

In all fairness, not all public schools are bad, nor are all private schools good, but I can tell you from my experience that there is a big difference in what you learn. For me the public school was two years behind the private school in all subject areas when my parents switched me from public to private. I was in all of the remedial classes and devasted. In public school I was all As and top of my class. In the end, I still fared well and went on to a great college, but I think my school experience could have been way better if I could have been able to attend private school from preschool on.

All I can say is, better make up your mind now from the get go. She either starts public and stays there, or private and stays there. Besides being better settled socially, she'll be better off academically.

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answers from Philadelphia on

i dont know about where you live but have you looked into the fact that catholic schools are closing a lot lately? Around here they are atleast. People are choosing public schools because they have more money going to them and then the catholic schools are increasing costs to make up for it and driving more customers away forcing them to close, so in any event based on whereyou live and the economy there she may have to switch schools at some point anyway. If money was no option I'd look into charter schools or private over catholic for that reason. I went to catholic from k-college and liked it, although I am burnt out on religion, but I liked the structure.
I;d vote for C

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answers from Santa Barbara on

I did D) Had my only daughter in public school the entire time! For two minutes I thought that it might be better to go to the private Catholic school. She would certainly be playing sports at the private high school, not sure at the giant public high school (lots of competition).

I felt the graduates coming out of the private Catholic school were waaaay out of control, much less expected from the teachers and students. I was completely happy with our choice to have in only great public schools.



answers from Detroit on

I would visit the public school .. can you volunteer.. ask for a tour.. go for open house..

I would probalby try the public kindergarden. most kindergardens are pretty similar.

my daughters public school kindergarden only has 20 kids int eh class.. but the class is very wild... lots of very active boys.. so it is crazy.. that could happen at any public or private school..



answers from Washington DC on

First choice for me would be to keep her in private K at her current school then switch, but since that isn't an option, I would send her to the private school for K so that she can start on an even keel with the others.



answers from Minneapolis on

You speak as though the cost of the tuition is going to go away or somehow become manageable if you wait a year or so and that somehow whatever is wrong with the public school will improve at some point. Put things in perspective. This is going to be a major investment whether you wait or not. In fact, the trend in most private Catholic schools across the country has been significant tuition increases annuallly to stay afloat in the economy. Dioceses across the country have had to close schools if they can't perform financially, so to expect that somehow sending your child sooner or later will make a difference is a bad criteria to set as to whether this is a feasible option. The criteria should be what you hope she gets academically and morally from the experience...even if you're not Catholic. Otherwise, what's the point? Catholics send their kids to these schools expecting it to be a financial sacrifice well worth it because of the end result...and worry about how to fund it as a second thought...mostly because there are no guarantees that costs will be capped or unexpected expenses are not around the corner.

If the local school is as bad as you say, I wouldn't even fathom bothering with sending her there at all. If you have the funds now...should there be a question? If you are not big on the Catholic aspect and making a significant financial investment in a school that doesn't share your belief system, but really don't like what the public school has to offer, perhaps your family and future goals are more suited for homeschool or a local charter school if you have those in your area. You'd definitely save money and have more say in your child's education.

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