Options for alternative schooling

My youngest child turned 5 last month and is set to begin kindergarten in September. The problem is I live in an area which has a not so great public school district and I don’t want to send her there.

We’ve been looking at different options and so far its not looking too good. I can’t afford a good private school (two more will be going to school in the coming years) and there doesn’t seem to be many alternatives. I’ve checked charter schools in my area and there is only one nearby. According to them entry is based on a lottery: first priority goes to children of the founders, second to families that have siblings in the school already, third goes to members of the school district where the school is located, and finally its open to those outside the district which is where we live. We’ve entered but only a very small number of slots open each year so I highly doubt the lottery will even make it to the out of district families. I’ve also checked with other school districts that are better in my area to see about having my kids attend but they charge a significant fee (estimated to be around $7000 a year) for each student so that’s not an option either. I also don’t think home schooling would work for us.

We’re resigned to moving to a new house but that has its own set of challenges not the least of which is being able to even sell my current home. There are 3 other houses for sale on my street and all of them have been there for more than a year.

I’m hoping there might be another option that I’m missing out on…a scholarship, state or federal program (we are in PA)…some other alternative to sending her to a school that has a poor record in education. I would greatly appreciate any advice you could offer, thanks!

Especially at this age, you can rectify the problems with a school simply by education outside of the classroom. It isn’t like they are learning astrophysics in class at that age. Teach your kids after school and on the weekends yourselves.

We do but we are of course legally bound to provide a proper education for her which in my mind means school with other children. I don’t want her going to the school in our neighborhood for scholastic reasons as well as because of the types of kids that go there.

Don’t get me wrong - I wasn’t suggesting home schooling.

I am saying to teach him or her in addition to the school. At that age, I think a lot of the benefit of the school is the socialization aspect. As for the type of kids - it depends on what you mean. I think it is a good thing for children from different backgrounds to mix.

Is parochial an option? At that young of an age they won’t be impressing anything too serious about religion on them.

Are you non white, would you qualify for financial aid? I’m looking into race-based scholarships for my SO’s sister for high school, she was adopted and isn’t white.

Otherwise I’d price your home lower than the others and make it pristine (there was a thread recently on how to do this, including kenneling pets and making it look like a show house). Then get the hell out of there and move on! Good luck :slight_smile:

I agree with the socialization aspect at that age and I certainly don’t object to her being with kids that have different backgrounds but many of the children who attend the school she would be going to are coming from broken homes and live in a not very nice part of town. Not to say they’re all bad (far from it) but between the poor record of the schools and home issues with the students its just something I’d rather avoid (though I hear what you’re saying about teaching at home).

Parochial school is not an option. I’m determined not to put them through what I had to deal with which was going to a catholic school from 1-6 grade. Its an inferior education and I’m very much against the religious indoctrination they put the kids through. My kids are half Japanese and half caucasian and I’m not above taking a scholarship for minorities if one where to be available. Do you have any information about this?

I think the post about selling the house was from me! I’m trying to make it perfect and its a metric ton of work but its coming along. I was hoping to find some alternative for school aside from moving because I don’t want to take such as massive loss on the property but at this point its looking like the lesser of all the evils. Thanks for the info all!

Unfortunately the ones I’m looking at are all for hispanics, so I can’t lend you any sites. Being half Asian half White isn’t helpful for minority admissions, it may actually be worse than being straight up white :p. And that comes from someone who is half and half herself! Anyone military in the family?

Congrats for being proactive about the house, though! Of course you’d have to balance how expensive schooling would be vs the loss on the property. Depending on the market, you could always sell the house and rent in the better district as well. You’d be amazed how many people would rather rent their house than sell it in this climate.

ETA: Sorry the parochial school won’t work out. FWIW, in my hometown many non-Christian friends went through it relatively trouble free. YMMV of course; my mom had a wretched parochial school experience.

I don’t think homeschooling should be off the table. I think the idea has gotten a bad rap and publicity from people who abuse it.

I understand your concerns about socialization & diversity, but just because you homeschool doesn’t mean your kid will be quarantined from other kids. Many cities have homeschool associations where the parents get together specifically for the kids to socialize with one another. Just google “[your city] homeschool association.”

With regard to your concern about your kid’s safety at a public school with… uh… issues, let me speak as one who went to just such a school. I went to a school in the ghetto. Full stop. Bad influences, bullying, etc. were a concern, to be sure. Were I a parent, I would teach my kids this about bullies: Hit back. Twice as fast, twice as hard.


ETA: http://www.k12.com/

Might be worth a look-see.

These must be some pretty diabolical kindergarteners.

I’d hope that you might step back a little bit and ask what you are looking for in a school and what it is, specifically, that leads you to believe that your child will somehow suffer from attending her neighborhood school. And maybe weigh that against what you see as the benefits of going to her neighborhood school - a part of your community. Maybe you’ve done your homework, and you can demonstrate that your local school will be bad for your child, but in general, a person gets out of school what she puts into it. If you support your school and your teachers, and if your kid is interested in going to school and in learning, then she’ll do just fine. A very few schools are, in general, extremely good. A handful are extremely bad. Most are pretty good. Before starting “real” school, that is, 1st grade, kids mainly need to learn how to work and play well with others. They need to learn how to line up. They need to learn how to listen. If you’re raising your kid with an awareness of the world, if you read together, if you have books, if you are supportive and encouraging of your child, if you like to learn new things, if your child has the semblance of a sense of humor, your kiddo will be just fine.

Parochial school are all over the map, both with regards to education and religious indoctrination. I would encourage you to research the ones in your area. Unless you went to that exact school in very recent memory, your experiences aren’t necessarily what your daughter may experience. And especially in kindergarten, you may find that the “indoctrination” is so minimal as to be acceptable.

I was faced with the same decision with preschool, and after spending some time at the local Catholic school talking to the teachers and other parents, decided I was okay with “Prayer Journals”, which were spiral bound notebooks in which the kids dictated to an older student their current emotional state and plans for dealing with stress. I was okay even with weekly Mass, because it was “balanced out” by a classroom which welcomed parent involvement, including educating children on other religious beliefs and thoughts - they had pagan, Jewish, Muslim and secular humanist parents all in at some point or another to tell the class what their traditions and views of god are. And…that was it, as far as religious instruction went. Of course, you have to make your own decisions by your own comfort levels, but the amount of religion your daughter might observe or be asked to participate in might be much smaller than you expect. We got through a year there unscathed, and then were able to move into a neighborhood with a truly good charter school.

Of course, parochial schools aren’t cheap, either. But it may be workable for a year, until you can sell your house and move into a better district.

I have to say, I lost sympathy when I realized the idea was to keep the kid away from poor kids or kids whose parents had divorced.

What about other schools within your district? In my school district, you can apply to go to a school you aren’t zoned to in a process called ‘open admission.’ So if there is another public school in the district, maybe a few miles away, if they have space after admitting all of the kids who are zoned there, then they let in other kids from the district.

That’s how we got our kids into a great school only a mile from our house, but miles above the school we are zoned to.

And yet she’ll have none of that Catholic moralizing, thank you very much! It’s amazing that the OP thinks there is anyone out there worthy of sharing a classroom with his/her children.

But the universe may be restored to balance yet: Wait till our “not very nice part of town”-dismissing OP learns what private school parents think about the kids who go there on scholarship.

Check the NCLB scores for your local school. If the school is failing or on probation, they cannot charge you a fee for changing districts.

On the other hand, after you check the scores, the local schools might not be so bad after all.

And on the other hand, if you judge a school by its test scores, you deserve what you get.

I wouldn’t be too concerned about socialization issues if your children don’t attend a traditional school. There are other ways to give your children the opportunity to socialize with other children and adults. The research I’ve seen suggests homeschooled children have equal or greater social skills compared to public school children. See, for example, the “academic research” section of this page.

If outright homeschooling isn’t for you, have you considered online charter schools? It’s still schooling at home, but the instruction is done by professional teachers. This page has a list of such schools in Pennsylvania. My sister considered this route when she lived in Penna. but her husband and kids weren’t enthused.

In many cases, the attitude of the parents toward school, and the attention they give to it has a much greater effect than the average test scores, or financial status of the students families.

In other words, it doesn’t matter how crappy the school might be; if you put effort & attention into your childs’ schooling, they can succeed. Things like stressing the importance of homework, making sure they have a quiet place to work on it, time to do it (‘no TV until the homework is done’), if you ask questions and help them with it, etc.

Also, most teachers are truly interested in in educating children (they sure didn’t get into if for the money), and will be quite happy to see parents that are actually working to help their children learn. The kind of parents who will actually show up for parent-teacher conferences, who will read & respond to notes sent home with the kids, etc. Many teachers have email now, and will readily respond to questions from parents. And most teachers will welcome you if you want to make a classroom visit, even regular ones. And in a school with problems, your child may get more attention from teachers, just because they know the parents are involved & attentive, more than many parents in the school.

Your kid is 5. In kindergarten they learn how to cut with scissors, identify colors, and use paste. How much damage can be done to your daughter, mixing with the hoi polloi for a year? Why can’t you put up your house for sale for the coming year, by next fall she’ll have run the gauntlet of K-Garten, and you will hopefully have sold your house by then and moved somewhere better.

Have you actually been in the neighborhood school? Speaking as a teacher in an urban district that has a bad reputation, I have to tell you that they often are not nearly as bad as outsiders think they are. I can’t tell you how many private school parents I’ve had who were shocked at our rigor and lack of knifings.

Schools will give you (and, if you want, your daughter) a tour. It’s not even unusual for parents to be checking out various schools this time of year. Go a couple of times. You may be pleasantly surprised.