Paying for private school

Tips and tricks for sending your child to private school

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Public school teacher sends child to private school

A public school teacher  wrote an article for The Atlantic on Why I’m a Public-School Teacher but a Private-School Parent

Public school teacher perspective

This was written by person who has 40 years experience working within the system;

“ …I’m not trying to be combative, but I do find it ironic that many people who argue against private schools work in the private sector. For 20 years, I have deliberately invested my life in teaching public-school kids, coaching them, and advocating for the ones who don’t have the same support that other kids have. In fact, I chose to teach in a public high school precisely because I pitied the children who felt forced to be at school, who felt trapped like I did when I was their age. I spend my own time and money advising clubs, tutoring those who struggle with English, helping students apply for college, and, sometimes, feeding kids who aren’t sure if they’re going to have dinner. On a daily basis, even as I’m surrounded by a million competing interests and distractions, I work hard to make their compulsory experience something for which they would volunteer….I am, however, concerned about the general culture at public schools—at least at the ones I’ve seen—of disengagement and compulsory learning. So when it comes to my daughter, I opt to invest a little more—to ensure she’s immersed in a community where it’s acceptable, and even admirable, to show natural enthusiasm for knowledge. I trust this particular private school, one that was created by like-minded parents, will best set her up for success.”[1]

Old School House Sign - Source: Wiki Commons

Old School House Sign – Source: Wiki Commons

Choose what makes sense for your family

The point here is not to bash on public schools. It is about choice. Choosing to send your child to a school that matches your value system. This may be a public school. And it may be a private school. And there is nothing wrong with either choice despite what others may tell you.

[1] http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/03/why-im-a-public-school-teacher-but-a-private-school-parent/386797/

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

Wait and see

For the few that consider private school as a possible path, a recurring theme  I have heard for those that can afford it 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.

Who should go?

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 it makes sense for your situation, 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

Free your mind

Wait, are you saying I just need to  do things differently, do some basic stuff for yourself  and avoid some junk and then I can send my kids to private school, retire early or donate stacks of cash to worthy causes?

That is right.

Why isn’t everyone doing this? Isn’t it going to be hard? I mean, after all if it was easy everyone would be doing this sort of thing, right?

Theory of the mind (or mind control for beginners)

There is an answer to these questions and it is called theory of the mind. This super power like ability enables you to mirror the experiences of someone else simply by watching them or hearing their story.

And throughout history this has been very useful. You can watch someone knit a few times and start to mimic them. Or you can hear a vivid story of an adventure over the hills and forever remember to avoid the cove of three trees. It’s like you are there – because, in your mind, you are there!

Fantasy Island

This also makes entertainment, well, so entertaining. You can follow your favorite team all season and when they win the championship you will share in their jubilee and say “we” won even though the team doesn’t know you exist. Or you

can escape into a fantasy land where you easily relate to and experience emotions of the hero Hobbit. And there are often valuable morale lessons in these fictional tales and they can provide much needed perspective but it comes with a steep price.

It’s Fake (News)

And, it is worth noting, it is all fake. You aren’t doing any of it. Sure, going on a wild adventure in a movie or book is a wonderful experience. But it is fake. And doing the dull but profitable job of keeping accurate records is downright boring in comparison.

 

The matrix is an illusory world

The way to fix this is to free your brain up. Specifically, force yourself to turn off the video and close the book. Sit still.  Wait a bit until you get bored. Then, think about what tiny super easy thing you can do that can improves your situation. Then do it. Repeat.

Stop watching fictional people live out their fictional lives while yours slips away. Go for a walk in your boring old neighborhood. A real walk.

G Ruga Coral Maple Tree Photo

Coral Maple Tree

As you step outside and see the soft glow of the people watching their programmed lives you will soon realize you have almost no competition, few are interested in easy, unexciting, but highly profitable tasks. You have already won by simply unplugging. Everyone is busy consuming visual symbols to stimulate their brains electrical impulses.

Now you know better.

Welcome to the real world. Let’s get to work.

Hard work and self-restraint

Paying for a private school is really challenging. And while there are many mental frameworks that help one in particular is required as the basis for the rest; industry and frugality. That is a fancy phrase for the combination of hard work and self-restraint.

This is not a new concept. Benjamin Franklin wrote the following Advice to a Young Tradesman on July 21st, 1748;

“It depends chiefly on two Words, Industry and Frugality; i.e. Waste neither Time nor Money, but make the best Use of both.”4

I urge you to read the full text. What isn’t often stated is how satisfying it is to get stuff done. Checking stuff off the list! Saving tens and sometimes hundreds of dollars in the process! And redirecting those dollars to someone else’s benefit.  “Work is love made visible“. ― Kahlil Gibran

It is ok to not be the best

I am probably the least handy person on the planet. To pay the tuition we regularly apply both industry and frugality.  It started with raking the leaves instead of paying someone to do it. And, slowly, ever so slowly, and with the help of lots of YouTube videos, we added more stuff to the we-do-that list. Last year, I carefully replaced the bathroom faucet. And someone heard I was doing the work myself.

caption2

By JanekpfeiferOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

They were quite impressed. My chest puffed out a little further (for about a minute) and it occurred to me it is kind of fun being able to get stuff done. It is even more fun to understand how something was installed so when a problem invariable occurs you can usually understand what is going on and when to call for help – and when to simply tighten a bolt.

There is dignity in work

It is very easy to be a consumer. To wait in lines for stuff and services. To pay for private school (or home school) you are going to have to change you mindset from consumer to producer. It is quite satisfying. I have repeatedly noticed that the few wealthy people I know tend to like to do stuff themselves. It is not for the money. There is dignity in work. Do stuff yourself, however small, instead of standing around watching others do it for you. It’s a lot more fun (well, when you are done) even if you have to do the same job three times in a row to get it right.

Read the Money Mustache article introducing and explaining the Consumer Habit Loop versus The Mustachian Habit Loop. And then read it again. It will take a while to sink in but it a key framework in enabling you to pay for your children education while simultaneously enjoying a more satisfying life.

Roll up your sleeves. Get your hands dirty*.

You can do this.

 

 

*Not really. I go through about 100 Raven Nitrile Power Free Gloves every six months. They enable me to do jobs that normally I would resist from the gross factor alone (this includes all cleaning, car and plumbing work).

 

 

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.

Adjusting your Amazon Echo’s Time for daylight savings March 12, 2017

We are fan(atics) for Amazon’s Echo technology. It is a low cost way to replace radios, clocks and ipods with a single device.

However, this morning (March 12th 2017), our Echo dot did not automatically adjust to daylight savings. Alarms went off an hour late and there was a stern set of inquiries asked of Alexa, including the all  important “Alexa, what are the laws of robotics? ”

After much searching for a solution we started  fidgeting  with the thing and found that going to the Alexa application and switching the time zone to Amazon time adjusted the device time to match  the correct Eastern Standard Time. This shouldn’t work (as Amazon Time should be Pacific Time since they are based in Seattle) but it did. Until the bug is fixed on the server side this is a work around for our fellow east coast folks.

To try this on your Amazon Echo dot,follow these steps:

  1. Start the Alexa Application on your tablet or computer
  2. Navigate to the Home->Settings area.
  3. Find the list devices of devices section.
  4. Select the device you want to modify and click on it or tap it.
  5. Find the section under General called Device Time Zone area.
  6. Use the menus to select US  and Eastern Standard Time for the time zone combinations.
  7. Wait 30 seconds
  8. Test it buying  ask the device the time.  Confirm the time is correct and matches the day light savings time.

The America and Eastern Standard Time zone combination is the one that doesn’t work. If that fails for you the American and Amazon zone also gave me the correct time.

Perhaps a bug fix will come out in a few days. Recommendations on better ways to do this are encouraged and welcomed in the comments.

 

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 simple life

One advantage of sending your child to private school is that much of your income goes along with them. As a result it limits the other available choices because you have much less discretionary income.

Fretting over a grand tour of Europe? Fret no more! You aren’t going!

This extreme financial constraints limit your choices and the resulting simplification actually leads to longer term happiness. It is known as the paradox of choice.

Have you always wanted to simplify your life? Now you can! And what better way than the assurance of a monthly tuition bill.  To be clear this isn’t about poverty – this is about voluntary simplicity. It is an interesting side effect we have noticed over years of sending the kiddo to a private school.

Read more about it in this outstanding book The Paradox of Choice (you are going to have a lot of time on your hands).

Oh, and for the trip? Easy, you are either staying home or going camping. Pick one.

 

A new education secretary

In November of 2016, the incoming administration appointed Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary and today she started her nomination hearings. What does her nomination mean for the education system?

Betsy is chair of Amercian Federation for Children, a group advocating for school choice for parents and students through the use of charter schools.

They claim the following:

  • Every 26 seconds a child drops out of a public school in America
  • In many of our nation’s largest cities dropout rates exceed 50%
  • America is lagging behind more than a dozen other nations in math and literacy.[1]

These are astounding numbers.

Old School House Sign - Source: Wiki Commons

Old School House Sign – Source: Wiki Commons

Their proposed solution is to introduce choice via charter schools and her appointment is a clear support of that philosophy in the public education system.

I have no idea if a voucher approach will work but I suspect (acknowledging I am the least qualified person in the world to talk about this) that a sudden switch to a voucher approach will leave areas where no education options are available.

The result would be similar to food deserts. These have occurred in cities with big box grocers understandably focusing on higher income areas. The under served areas are left with few if little options and lose access to fresh produce.

I hope a new national approach results in improved academic achievement for all students but urge caution.

Slow and careful changes with an exploratory approach  may make sense here. For example, can the power of the internet remove geographic barriers to educational access? How can they assure that there isn’t a generational gap for specialty programs such as special needs programs, programs focused on the arts, STEM and vocational studies while they experiment approaches?

We will watch this closely from the lens that every child deserves to use their time in school to have the opportunity to grow to their full potential and be an active part of the broader community.

[1] http://afcgrowthfund.org/school-choice-facts/

The Granny Smith cash multiplier method

There is a very subtle multiplier effect which is essentially a tax free income booster that can help you pay for a private school tuition. Here is how it works.

In November my wife was looking for a tree to plant on our very (very) small yard as a screen for a nearby street. The tree had to be fairly small given the constraints of said small yard.

She happened upon one that was ascetically pleasing with a maximum height and width of 30 feet by 30 feet. Measured from the location of where we would place it with a yard stick (it’s a small yard) at full size the tree will expand 15 feet each way. Perfect!

Method Tip 1: Avoid having to earn as much income on the purchase by purchasing a lower cost item.

The ten foot tall tree, while ideal in form and habit, was half bereft of leaves with a bit of a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree look going on. The tree was originally $120 but was marked down to $30. A sale!

Enter step one of the multiplier effect. She saved $90 dollars on the original purchase.

US Currency - Source Wiki Commons

US Currency – Source Wiki Commons

That saved amount removed the need to earn that extra $90. Let’s assume a 40% cumulative, federal, state, sales taxes and mystery fees on the income. That extra $90 would have cost $126 in earned income to cover. Whew!

To restate- that is $126 in earnings we didn’t have to make to actually end up with the $90 extra we would have needed for the full price of the tree.

Method Tip 2: When making a purchase, have it solve multiple problems at once.

My mother told me that her grandmother had a purpose for every plant around the farmhouse, in addition to looking nice.

In our case we were looking for a small tree that provides a summer screen from the nearby street but still looks good and drops leaves in the winter for additional sunlight in the colder months. This works for both screening and sound attenuation in the winter as it is quite dense with branches.

What else could it do for us?

In our case the tree selected is a Granny Smith apple tree! It should produce about $20 bucks of

caption2

By No machine-readable author provided. Fievet assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., Public Domain, Link

organic apples every year (ok, more like $50 but I want to be conservative here to make a point).

And we placed it on the west side of the house to shade (and cool the air) going into the AC and near the house.

What about having to pick the extra apples that we won’t eat, giving bags of them to neighbors, family, coworkers and the local food pantry and then still having to pick busted ones off the ground? What a hassle right? Sure, but we have arranged our lives such that we get regular physical activity with this sort of money saving effort all year long. Annual gym memberships were cancelled long ago but we will only count the month of apple picking and leaf raking mayhem here for another $50 saved.

And for the grand finale, our nearby park has crab apple trees. These can be used to cross pollinate Granny Smith apple trees (they self-pollinate but word in the fields is that a nearby pollinator will help with yields). That is a second $30 tree we didn’t have to buy (nor had space for) because we selected a compatible tree for our neighborhood.

Total economic impact

The first year we saved $90 on the tree and $30 on a second tree we didn’t need to purchase. The tree (fairly big already) should produce apples about three years hence and provide the shade to assist with house cooling.

Lets look at the numbers using the Granny Smith multiplier method.

Year 1: $120 saved

Year 3 on: $50 saved on gym membership, $20 on apple costs and $5 on AC costs for an annual savings of $75.

Ten year economic output: $645

And remember this is all tax free after the initial $30 we spent. That is a money tree that offers $60+ annually in savings, builds community as we gift organic apples, screens the street and provides a beautiful tree to look at. Plus it is pretty cool to have an apple tree.

Let’s assume my conservative numbers are *still* too high and it only saves us half that, or $30 a month.

Fine. An investment with a yield will take a hit of 15% on the income so I would need $34.5 in monthly income ($414 annually) to produce that same value.

A typical safe stocks yield 3%. We would need a stock portfolio with a market value of $13,800 to produce that same income. And to purchase that stock we would have had to earn $20,010 in gross income to purchase that investment.

Oh, and the yield on the Granny Smith Apple Tree is $30 a year or 100% of its original purchase price, annually.

We just trounced the stock market and avoided having to earn an additional $20,000. Thanks Granny Smith!

Don’t overdo it

The multi-purpose mindset does have its limits. Spending an extra $10,000 on a fancy pick-em-up-truck because you might need to haul a jumbo pack of toilet paper someday is just a slow way to lose money. Just think about it first and run the numbers is all I am saying.

Get into the multi-purpose mindset. You can do this.

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