Paying for private school

Tips and tricks for sending your child to private school

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Reasons people send their children to private school

Recently on a message board I occasionally read, a parent was wondering if they should send their child to private school. So she asked the parents of other private school children if her child would feel poor compared to other families and feel bad about themselves as a result.

One respondent decided to inform the original poster on the real reason they were considering private school:

If it were truly “education” that you care about, your kid would be in a high performing public school. Private school parents care more about the “experience” which is code for “rubbing shoulders with rich people to learn their values and customs and not hard working immigrant values.”

Angry person art

By SmurfyOwn work, Public Domain, Link

Wow, I am glad that respondent cleared it up for them – I bet the parent didn’t even know they were against education!

This kind of shaming response is quite common and the main reason for this web site. Those kind of knee jerk responses assumes that parents send their kids to private school to “rub shoulders with the rich people and learn their customs”.

I attended private schools for 12 years and have paid for a child to attend one nearly as long.

Not once in this time have I seen or heard anyone doing some sort of anthropological study of the ways of the wealthy. Indeed, all the kids attend all the same classes and, at many schools, are required to wear the same clothing (uniforms) to avoid status from being an issue.

Here are the reasons I have actually heard from parents sending their children to private or independent charter schools, as well as home schooling.

  • School matches the families religion
  • Alignment with the family values
  • Specialized learning environment where the private school focused on particular area such as
    • Special needs
    • College preparation
    • Military career preparation schools
    • The arts (dance, theater etc.)
    • An international based education where the child learns the language of their culture (very good for diplomats who will need to return to their country at the end of service)
    • Greek tradition (sports and academic having equal weight)
  • Smaller class size enabling better learning outcomes
  • Additional learning resources are available in some of the private schools – one I know of has Ipads, the other offers horseback riding for kids (apparently it calms the kids who have sensory issues).

I am sure I am missing some. And I would love to hear from any parent that sends their kids to private school to study the culture and norms of wealthy people to learn their ways!

And for everyone else – I do want to assure you that selecting a private school means you are focused on providing a good education for your child. And an educated child becomes and educated adult which benefits all of society. Keep up the great work and sacrifice and thank you.

 

Think multi-purpose

Ever noticed all those low profile and uninteresting hatchbacks, mini-vans and station wagons wheeling around?

Time to get excited about them because they are awesome.

We purchased our battle wagon for a net of $8000 even though it only has $70K miles and gobs of air bags.

Last month we needed a new side board (well, a side board, we never owned one).

New side boards were $1000 for low end ones unless you go with those glue and saw dust ones that have to be replaced soon anyway.

Too much! Guess those boxes stay on the floor.

We looked on Craigslist for weeks. And weeks. Even the cruddy stuff at low end stores was $500. Sigh. We were very close to dishing the money out for a new piece and cutting in other areas to make it work.

But wait, Craigslist has a 5 foot solid wood one for sale that on the Havertys awesome web site sells for $1000 new (love their stuff – so cool). And it is only $200 bucks and within a few miles of the house!

If only we had something to move it with – I am too lazy to rent something and it would take too much time. It might be gone and what if I don’t like it when I see it. In comes the incredible station wagon with seats that fold down! volvo-wagon-blueAn hour later the sideboard was now gracing our home instead of headed to the trash heap.  Money saving environmentalism.

On the way home I couldn’t help but realize the $800 saved was the equivalent of a 10% yield pay out on the wagon. That is pretty sweet contribution to the tuition.

Keep costs low and think multi-purpose.

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine …Hundred Dollars

I am a fan of LL. Bean’s washable wool dress pants  as I wear fancy pants to my office job.

LL Bean is known for durable easy care high quality items. Their dress pants are a mix of wool and polyester which results in torrent of financial savings for the office dweller like me. Recently, a relatively new pair had the hem come undone and flapping in the breeze.

Think Before You Toss ‘Em

LL Bean Washable Wool Pants.

LL Bean Washable Wool Pants.

Normally I would have tossed it in the Goodwill bag and gotten a new one. More on that in a minute. First, a little more about these productive pants.

Their secret super power is that you can wash and hang them and they come out looking great without a trip to the dry cleaner. They can be more expensive up front, but as you have already learned sometimes it make sense to pay more up front.

The Savings

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

 

LL Bean Washable Wool Dry Clean Only Pants
Cost of pants $119 $119
Dry cleaning cost per wash 0 $5
Water cost per year $4 0
Number of times worn over 3 years 156 156
Gas cost of driving back and forth 0 1
Dryer costs 0 (we hang these on a dryer rack) 0
Hassle factor Low High
Total cost $124 $899
Cost per wear 80 cents $5.76

 

What? And that is just for one pair of pants. Assuming you wear dress pants 5 days a week the fancy drying clean only pants will cost you $4495 over 3 years. And this is before you consider shirts.

Surprisingly, we have found that doing this ourselves saves time as well. There is no driving and parking needed. And there is rarely a line at our drying rack.

$5000. And time saved. And it is better for the environment.

Back to the unfurling pants. My wife took up the hobby of sowing. She took one look at the unfolded hem on my near new pants and a moment later had them back in order. No need to ditch them.

Another $119 saved that can be added to the $5000 to use for tuition costs.

You can do this.

 

The power of a cold shower

Paying for private school requires change from within.

The costs might require taking a promotion that is both good for your organization and good for your family but not in your comfort zone.

Or, it might involve forgoing a worthwhile and generally enjoyable vacation, or upgrading the coffee maker. Or, in a peaceful way, it might involve saying no to a lot of things.

Voluntary Discomfort As Mind Training

In short, it requires you to be proficient at voluntary discomfort. This requires you to be prepared to act with integrity in the moment. And training is what prepares you.

Enter the cold shower. I know, it sounds crazy but bear with me.

This technique is quick, low cost, effective and good for you and the environment.  And it makes you

caption2

By Miguel AndradeOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

appreciate the simpler things such as,  oh I don’t know,  room temperature air and, well, not being in a cold shower. This last part, while amusing at first, is where the power of it comes in as it changes your mind set. You build patience and tolerance to discomfort. A brief cold blast of water puts a tough meeting later in the day in perspective and makes it easier.

 

Instructions:

  1. Start with your shower at the normal temperature.
  2. After a minute or two turn it down just a little.
  3. Repeat until you get to cool and slightly uncomfortable
  4. Adjust the water temperature to make it colder still and end the show with a cold blast of water for a few seconds.
  5. Mind training complete.

Your voluntarily discomfort practice will enable you to focus your mental powers on what is important. Soon enough you will scoff at ‘pampering yourself’, ‘indulging’ or ‘you deserve the very best’ advertisements and correctly see them as a form of weakness.

You need the clarity of mind to shake that stuff off and decide if paying for private school is appropriate for your family and then the mental toughness to stick to it.  A cold shower regimen can help tap the power of voluntary discomfort training for any worthwhile endeavor that requires focus over time.

This is Not New and Can Make You Healthier

And this is not a new form of training. Thomas Jefferson bathed his feet in cold water every morning for 50 years (they didn’t have showers).

As an added bonus it *actually* makes you healthier and tougher by increasing brown fat cells (little space heaters in your body).   It might even help you stay healthier longer –  read this  2015 interview with Ed Ronthalier who started the practice in 1918.

 

 

 

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.

 

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