Private school drop-out.

This year, my two school-aged children made the switch from private to public because I’m a bleeding heart idealist who firmly believes that when families flee the public education system, taking their support dollars, volunteer hours and children elsewhere, we decrease the probability of an American public education come-back and, we limit our children’s ability to experience the world as it truly exists – diverse, economically and socially. Also, with four children, we couldn’t afford it. See what happened there? Ideology and then, cold, hard facts.

I do miss the small community of private school, but, my lingering fears about moving did not equate into tangible moments. We are fortunate to live in a fairly safe community considered rural by big-city standards. The teachers care deeply. The administration provided parents with 24 ounce coffee cups on the first day of school (this is important). The PTO is currently small and actively recruiting but, made up of parents who have a vested interest in taking lemons and making the best damn lemonade you’ve ever had. No, not that one with the vodka. Think of the children!

We made the choice to be incredibly involved because we have the luxury of being an active presence at their school. I’m able to work from home on a flexible schedule. My husband has a schedule that allows him to play once a week with the school band for all-school-sing. I can join the PTO because I don’t have to start my night-shift 20 minutes into ‘new business’. The mantra of, “the parents aren’t involved in public school!” is all about perception. People aren’t necessarily less involved. A lot of them are just working. Damn hard.

There are several walking paths to the school. I asked a mother yesterday where one of the wooded paths led. She responded that it was direct access to a public housing community in town. “Isn’t that great?” she said, “The kids get to walk safely to school and they don’t even need to walk on the road. I just love that.”

“I do too.” I said, and a very sudden and urgent lump in my throat made its way to my eyes. I didn’t truly grasp why I was dropping tears on number 68 of the painted caterpillar’s “count to 100!” body on the black-top until I started writing this piece.

My inner idealist knows this is why we’re here. Because a teacher in 3rd grade told me I could write. She gave me a pen as a gift on the last day of school. I was told I was special; I could be and do anything I held as a dream in my heart. No matter what was happening at home, I had school. School changed my life. I know that not every family and every child at this school lives in peace and comfort and I know that, for a lot of children, this is probably the best 6 hours of their day. In these halls are children who just met the teacher that is going to change their world for the better. Simply by being here, we get to be a part of that.

Our money-starved, flawed public education system takes everyone. It’s imperfect and needs help, but, it takes those with all of the choices and those with no other choice. That is an ideal that, at the very least, deserves my absolute best.


  1. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE this. Really really.

    ‘when families flee the public education system, taking their support dollars, volunteer hours and children elsewhere, we decrease the probability of an American public education come-back and, we limit our children’s ability to experience the world as it truly exists – diverse, economically and socially’ <—This made it for me.

    I see SO MANY Moms and a lot of bloggers who mock the PTO or people who get involved with their kids school. When in all reality a lot of those Moms are the ones with lots of choices, the ones that can work hard to give back to their school and make a difference. Instead they channel their efforts into turning the idea into a mockery for others to laugh at. I for one am proud to be someone who contributes time when I can. I'm always the first to sign up for help at a class party and I volunteer at Market Day each month. Because of my SAD, I am easing myself into being an active member of the school and PTO. I'll be going to PTO meetings this year. Between my daughter and then son, we'll be in this school for NINE years. It's my hope that in 2 years, I'll have both kids in school and be able to do more.

    Bravo to you putting your fingers to key, what I've thought for a long time!

  2. I love this! We are getting ready to move and make the switch back to public ourselves. And I am really looking forward to this experience for our family.

  3. Your ideology made me weepy. Big smooches for this piece. Mwah!

  4. School is what you make of it, whether public or private, IMO. Of course I never had the financial option to put my kids in private school other than Montessori preschool, so my view is somewhat skewed. 🙂 I wish I had had more opportunities to volunteer, but I did what I could. Single working (outside the home) mom, 3 kids … time is precious and in short supply, what can I say. Can I make a request of the moms who are able to be there volunteering on a daily/weekly basis, tho? Please reach out to the harried working parents and include them when possible. We can cut out construction paper letters at home, make posters, etc. I remember all too well the couple of times I took off work to man the table during library week or whatever and feeling slightly ostracized by the moms who were there All.The.Time. Hey, we love our kids too. And we really do appreciate SO much the love and attention you show all the kids and the school. Really, we do.

    Thank you for listening/reading. 🙂 Kudos for going public. It’s important.

  5. Your friend, Dawn says:

    I am so glad you have made this choice. Our little town needs more families like yours, and I don’t just mean big.

  6. You’ve made the woman, mother, and educator in me so happy with this piece. I shall paint the Internet with your words now. THANK YOU.

  7. There is a distinct difference in the philosophy of education here in the Northeast compared to where I was raised, in the Pacific Northwest. Back home, there are private schools, of course, but most everyone, regardless of income level, sends their children to public school. There isn’t much polarization because everyone goes to school together. There are no bad schools, because they have the entire community’s support. Over here, not so much.

    I love that your husband is jamming with the school band, and that you are getting your PTO on. Your kids’ new school is blessed to have your crazy family.

  8. I love this so much I have goosebumps. My husband is a principal and, so often, I catch a glimpse at the little things he and so many of the teachers on his staff do for the kids in their school. Some of their actions are so small to them but I know they are huge to these kids. My husband lost his mom when he was young and he has mentored quite a few kids who have struggled at his school because they did not have a mom present. He says it’s no big deal and that anyone would do it but I think it is a HUGE deal and those kids will always remember the adult who took the time to let them know that they understand.

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