What I’ve Learned From Having Kids in Both Public and Private School

private schoolGrowing up, my husband and I went to both public and private schools. I started out in public school for elementary and middle school and moved to private for high school. He was the opposite. He started at private for elementary and middle and even some of high school and then finished out at a college preparatory public high school. Fast forward four years after high school, and there I was, a brand new teacher at a public elementary school. I loved every second of my decade as a public school teacher. So much so, that when we had children of our own, I believed in the public school system so much that we didn’t even tour any private schools because I was dead set on sending our children to our neighborhood public school.

My son recently graduated from that same sweet public elementary school that I had fallen in love with and was so adamant that he attend, and my daughter still has two more years to go. It has been the most wonderful experience, and I stick behind that decision I made more than six years ago. Two years ago, with middle school lurking around the corner, something inside me said maybe it was time for a change. I wasn’t so sure that our neighborhood middle school was a good fit for my kids. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great school. A really great school, in fact. It just didn’t seem right for us, so we started to look around and explore our options. We checked out charter schools, and I didn’t fall in love. We checked out the magnet schools, and I didn’t fall in love. Then we started to delve into the world of private schools. By doing some research online, we eliminated the majority, focused on two, and took tours. I absolutely fell in love with one in particular, and we went from there! My son started middle school there a few weeks ago, and we (even him!) couldn’t be happier! Aside from the obvious differences (uniforms and religion), here are a few things I’ve learned so far from having one kid in private school and the other in public school.

Communication

Both of my kids’ schools have parent/teacher communication guidelines. The private school had all of the information out way before the public school did. This has nothing to do with my public school slacking. This has to do with my public school having to wait on the school board to get out the rules, guidelines, and information before the school is able to release it. My private school makes its own rules, guidelines, and information, so they can get it out earlier because they are the decision-makers. I loved having the info out mid-summer. It made planning so much easier.

Parent Involvement

I type this with a tiny lump in my throat. My public school used to have the most amazing parent involvement. Being the former PTA President, I’ve spent many hours in that school. The last year was tough. I spent the entire year locked out of my childrens’ school, during my son’s last year in elementary school. Again, this is NOT the fault of my school. They are just following the rules set forth by the school board, and we are so very hopeful that it will change. I know when the no-visitors rule is lifted, my public school will once again be filled with amazing parents and volunteers willing to help. The private school is still able to welcome visitors. We were able to have a face-to-face meet-the-teacher and open house. At our public school, our meet the teacher was a drive-through meet-and-greet and supply dropoff, and our open house will be online. I’m not saying one is right and one is wrong, especially since we are living through a pandemic, they are just different. I greatly miss interacting with our teachers and staff, and they miss the parents just as much as we miss them!

Kids Will Be Kids

At no point did we choose to leave public school because of the children. As a former public school teacher and a lover of all people, we still wanted a school that offered diversity and inclusion, which thankfully we were able to find. Let’s be honest, kids are kids regardless of what school you go to. You aren’t going to go to a private school and be able to avoid all kinds of social issues. This is just part of growing up. There are going to be good kids and bad kids everywhere, and you are delusional if you think there won’t be any bullying. It’s all in the way the school handles it.

COVID Contact-Tracing

The contact tracing is moving much more quickly in my private school. The nurses are working tirelessly to make sure all exposed kids are notified immediately and are out of the building with a negative COVID test required to return, along with a symptom sheet to be filled out during the length of your quarantine. My public school is also contact tracing, but it is taking a little longer. The staff is spread so thin. The rules for them are continually changing as the county changes its policies on COVID and contact tracing. They are trying their best and sending kids home and closing classrooms as needed. I’m thankful that BOTH of my schools are doing what they can to keep all students safe and in school.

I have one kid in public and one kid in private, and we couldn’t be happier. Both of the kids are exactly where they belong for now. There is no right or wrong way to educate your child. You just have to find the sweet spot for your family! Please at least do yourself the favor and explore your options. You may fall in love with your neighborhood school, or you may prefer a neighboring magnet school or even a magnet school clear across town. You may fall in love with a charter school that has more flexibility than a public school and has the “feel” of a private school with no cost. Check out your private schools. Many offer different kinds of financial aid. I know whatever you decide, it’ll be what is best for your child!

Born and raised in St. Augustine, Johanna moved to Jacksonville to attend UNF and never left! Now this former elementary school teacher turned Stay at Home Mom to Hudson and Callie, and wife of 13 years to Matt, enjoys life at the beach. Johanna enjoys being room mom and volunteering at the kid’s school as PTA President. She also in an avid runner, and loves working out at The Gym Jax!

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