Paying for private school

Tips and tricks for sending your child to private school

Category: When to go

Shouldn’t all children be educated to their potential, even if it is not ‘success’  by conventional  standards?

Occasionally, when other parents find we send our child to private school, they discuss their thought process for their own children.

For the few that consider private school as a possible path, a recurring theme is that they will wait to see if the child has potential to justify the expenses.

Old School House Sign - Source: Wiki Commons

Old School House Sign – Source: Wiki Commons

And I get that one wouldn’t want to waste money but I struggle with their wait-and-see viewpoint.

Shouldn’t all children be educated to their potential, even if it is not ‘success’  by conventional  standards? Indeed, isn’t a struggling child the ideal case for a private education and most likely to see beneft?

If you can’t afford it, no problem and no guilt as we have great public schools. But for those of you can afford it and are interested, don’t wait and see. Move now to develop that potential and make it inevitable.

Tell your children they are a more worthwhile investment and more important than a supersized house.

Villa Haas Mansion - Source: Wiki Commons

Villa Haas Mansion – Source: Wiki Commons

Getting in to a private elementary school

One of the advantageous of a private school is the alignment of values, approach and focus with that of the family’s interest and needs.

This is a two way street

Many prospective parents are surprised to find this go both ways. Quickly dispel the notion that you paying gobs of money means you are a customer. Incorrect. You are paying for part of the expenses for a community you are joining (and ideally, have been long part of). And this means it goes both ways.

Many private schools often don’t have enough openings. Others have certain entrance criteria (this doesn’t mean academic) and will not diverge from that criteria, even if it means leaving seats empty or shutting down. That is what makes them special – the ability to focus on their particular mission.

In short, this means your family must earn and keep a spot in a private school. That means not only selecting a school that is a fit for you but the school selecting you.

Where does your family fit in compared to other applicants?

To do this we will examine existing models constructed from the research at (where else) a private education institution – in this case Harvard University  – where Michael Porter describes the five competitive forces that should be considered in shaping strategy[1]. These forces include rivalry, threat of new entrants, threat of substitutes, bargaining power of buyers and suppliers.

In your own situation what is your value to the school community?  If you were the school would you select your family as compared to others? Why? And why not?

Remember financial aide is often managed through a blind trust so the ‘I can pay the tuition’ might not be a factor. Or it might be. Depends on the school. And for grade schools, academic excellence doesn’t exist. And for college it might be one of those necessary but not sufficient items.

In our own situation we are members of the religious community where our child goes to school so we offer continuity and shared values.

Our differentiation

Additionally, we enrolled during the last large economic downturn when interest in private education waned because of financial challenges for many families. For us the religious framework was more important than the bank account.

What about you?

What about you? Is a new school forming that needs students and aligns with your vision of a school? Or is the school almost entirely families from one part of town/culture/group and you family can introduce much needed diversity in the classroom?

Investigate and understand. We have seen a class with 85% boys in the class turn away more boys because they wanted a higher mix of girls. Your value proposition can be as simple as having a daughter who is interested in the school.

Lay aside your tendency to fighting for what you think is the right school for your child – you might be wrong

You might be thinking that school ‘over there’ would be perfect for your child. And that might be the case but more than likely the school ‘right here’ is the ideal fit and will seem all to familiar. It might even be your local public school.

The point here is to find out instead of blindly applying to what you think is the ideal or best private school. And consider your families relative position in the five forces competitive model.

And finally, do your research

Do your research. I assure you that is it much better to find out your situation is not a match before your child joins the school rather than focusing on getting in no matter what.

[1]“The Five Competitive Forces That Shape Strategy.” Harvard Business Review. August 13, 2008.

When to send your child to private school (now)

As I have mentioned before, public school is wonderful and we need it. However, for some of us, a private school education is a good match for our children.

This leads to the next questions – when should they go?

The answer is simple: now.

Many people wait as long as possible to send their children to private school. The idea is that you save money in the meantime and then make the switch at “right time”. Others wait to see if the child really needs the benefits of such a school. Is this worth the investment? And is the child worth sending?

Marble column pediments . New York City 2005

Marble column pediments . New York City 2005 Wiki Commons

There are three problems with that line of thinking.

The first, is that the private schools have students at all grade levels and you might not be the only one thinking of this approach. There may not be a seat at the table and there is no obligation for the school to make room for your child.

Second, this isn’t how education works. Would you wait until the end of the summer to “catch up” your garden by watering it a bunch at the end after a long hot summer? What kinds of results would you expect? Every child deserves the best education we can provide them, no exceptions.

As a private school attendee from an early age I witnessed many students coming in to help redirect their behaviors and academic approach. And it helped, somewhat, but having seen them grow up and become adults I can assure you it didn’t “fix them”. Some of my friends who fall in this category also have criminal records and a confused identity.

Third, and most important, is the idea that you are being clever to save money. Don’t approach this like a consumer. This isn’t a dishwasher purchase. It is the two way involvement in a community with shared values. It goes both ways. You have a moral obligation to participate, improve and sustain the community. Not just show up at the last possible minute when you are in need for the private school service. Many teachers and administrators dedicate their lives and make huge personal financial sacrifices to educate the children of the community – including yours. Stop treating them like a business. It is insulting to them and reveals you as a consumer and not a contributor.

If you believe in private education as a concept step up and support the community before, during and after your child attends. And if you don’t want to that is fine and there is a great option available for you: public school.

“Give me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the man.”

― AristotleThe Philosophy of Aristotle

The cost of ignorance

Yesterday, a young child of a family we know over heard a discussion about the recent election and the various rhetoric about immigration and minority groups.

This child (quite young and part of one of the groups being discussed) interpreted this conversation to be that *they* are at risk of being sent away. As a result, the precious and wonderful child decided to work on a way to downplay their cultural identity – to hide it.

If only those discussing the current political climate were trained more carefully to consider the affects of their words they would have caught themselves instead of frightening this young child. How long will this child hold this viewpoint? Is this repairable?

This is not a political post.  And it is possible (and indeed likely) those discussing the election didn’t realize the affect this kind of discussion might have on nearby children.

Private schools are not under the separation of church and state framework appropriately enforced at public schools. This frees them to provide a religious education, focus on morality and,  often with a smaller class sizes, more easily reach out to children who need course correction as they learn about empathy.

An intentional morale framework is the main benefit and purpose of a private education in my opinion. The lack of that kind of training become all too apparent – and damaging – in times of turmoil.

There are many schools with different spiritual and morale frameworks.  If a private education is of interest to you, select the one that resonates with you  and your family and support them. The first step will be sending your child to that school.