What are your thoughts on private/independent schooling for grades 9-12?

A couple years ago, my son was having some trouble at school (social, not academic*), and we decided to enroll him in private school, beginning in 4th grade. It’s a great school, he’s happy, and he’s doing well. He still has some of the same issues he had before, but the teachers and administrative staff are better able to help him, since teacher:student ratios are better than public schools, and all in all it’s better. My daughter is a couple years older than him, and when we decided to send him, we offered to let her go there, too. She declined, as she was happy where she was, liked her circle of friends, and etc. Our plan all along has been to send my son to a private/independent high school, because we want to keep him out of the public school system completely. That’s still a few years away.

My daughter, however, has a friend who’s parents are both alumni of a pretty pricey liberal arts-oriented independent high school a couple towns away (day school). The friend is planning on going there, and my daughter wants to go, too. This is the first time she’s expressed an interest in going anywhere other than public school, which she’s been saying pretty much all along she wanted to attend.

Tuition is $41K per year, but they are “need-blind” and offer need-based tuition assistance in the form of scholarships, tuition reduction and payment plans. They may also offer loans. Not sure. My son’s tuition has been expensive, but manageable, but increases now that he’s going to upper school (middle school level).

We went to an open house at the school my daughter wants to attend. It is a great school with really robust art, music and athletic programs. They’re not highly regarded for their academic program, but improving, and feed ivy league schools consistently.

So, I’m probably looking at dishing out somewhere between $400K and $500K** before my kids even get to college. In reality, I’ll probably spend half that***, after need-based incentives are applied to tuition. But still.

Is it even worth it? If they want to go this route, I’ll be supportive and I think they’ll make some good contacts along the way that will benefit and enrich them later.

*He has a short fuse, a high sensitivity to injustice, and gets frustrated very easily. A couple kids discovered they could easily push his buttons, get him riled up, and his reaction amused them, so it started happening pretty frequently. When he retaliated, he would receive the punishment, because the kids starting with him were smart enough to be discrete about it. It became sort of an ugly feedback loop.

**I can’t actually afford this

***I probably can’t afford this, either

My thoughts are that you probably can’t afford it. So it is kind of a moot question.


How bad/good are the public schools in the district you live? Seems like that’s an important part of the equation. Sending your daughter to an over-the-top expensive school just because “her friend goes there” doesn’t seem like a good enough reason.

Is private school just delaying finding a real solution to the real problem? How will your son deal in college or the work force with people trolling him? I’d work on fixing that.

I think it comes down to how you define “worth it”.

Is your kid going to recoup $500k in extra earnings? Maybe, but probably not. It’s probably going to depend a lot on what field she enters. A future investment banker is going to get more mileage out of a big-name school than a future teacher. But realistically, just handing the kid $500,000 is probably a lot more economically efficient than spending it on a pricy high school.

Is your kid going to have opportunities that may contribute to a better quality of life? Yes, most likely. $500,000 dollars with? Probably not. And a lot of this depends on the kid. Will she take advantage of these opportunities? Or will she just coast by?

You have to really define your goal here. And you have to think pretty hard about how- specifically- this school could contribute to that goal. Then you have to weigh it against all the other things that money could be doing.

Then why is this even an option? I’m sorry, but if you can’t afford it…

The schools are good, but there’s an epidemic of parents complaining about their kids’ grades and lobbying for higher, unearned grades. My daughter’s position is that the integrity of our school system is compromised and will hamper her from getting into the college she wants to go to (Harvard).

I have had my own challenges with my kids who have been publically schooled and through the nature of my business I am immersed in a social set where probably 50% of the parents opt for private schooling for their kids through high school. I am familiar with both sides of the equation.

In the end if you have special needs kids and can afford it, go for it, but if you have a reasonably attentive normal kid it’s (based on what I have observed) not going to do much for them academically. Where the real benefit lies is in the social connections and friendships the kids will make, however, (realistically) if they are not all that inherently social or prone to making or keeping friends those benefits post graduation will be limited.

A lot of the time parents in my area moved their kids into public school once they reached high school age and they did fine. I think you have to do a real world projection of your kids academic capability. You’re paying college prices for elementary school education. If your funds really are limited I think you would be far better served moving your kids into public schools and banking that money for college where it’s really going to matter.

Also, I’m not preaching as I’m got my own issues with my (now adult) kids but your boy is old enough to be capable of some self control, and also enough social awareness not to act out in ways that will make him a target. He can be a social justice warrior but he has to learn appropriate manners first.

"He has a short fuse, a high sensitivity to injustice, and gets frustrated very easily. "

This is a polite way of saying he has trouble keeping his mouth shut and likes to pop off if frustrated which is socially obnoxious and paints a huge target on his back. This needs to stop ASAP or he is in for continuous social beat downs. While it’s good to have private school teachers being solicitous of his emotional state you need to nip this behavior in the bud.

My thoughts on expensive, private schools is that if you can afford it, great. As you mention, the good ones feed into great colleges and can lead to valuable networking.

But as others have said, if you can’t afford tuition, then my thoughts don’t really matter. I don’t recommend putting yourself in financial hardship so your kids can go to the private school of their choice.

We’re working him from a number of angles, all of which are working, albeit slowly. The decision to go private school was to make sure he gets his elementary education with less distraction. We expect he’ll outgrow his issues and learn to deal with them, and his new school isn’t entirely free of antagonists (things aren’t allowed to go as far as they did in public school). He’s a sensitivity kid, so yeah, he’ll have a tough go of it anywhere, but his grades are better, he gets in less trouble, and he’s happier, so well worth it, in my opinion. We were making almost monthly trips to parental conferences his last year in public school and haven’t had any the last two years.

Please do not bank on this. I rolled those same “outgrow it” dice, and I lost, and my now 29 year old daughter is still at sea in many ways. If there is a seriously dysfunctional behavioral tendency address it forcefully and modify it while they are still young if possible. Few inherent tendencies just vanish on their own.

The approach we’re taking is to find the best place for the kids and find a way to make it happen. My wife is going back to work, so that should help. My cousin is in the same boat and they downsized to reduce their expenses. We could do that, too, if we had to I suppose. We’ve got some decent equity in our house.

Pretty much all the schools will find a way to make sure it’s affordable. I didn’t think we’d be able to send my son to private school but we have and it’s been fine.

It’s possible that your daughter might resent it to see that the kid who gets in trouble gets to go to a fancy school, but the kid who doesn’t doesn’t.

We gave her the option to attend the same school and she declined. We have frequently told her that the option is available if she changes her mind. Education is an almost constant conversation in our household

Sounds like your mind’s made up, then. If it’s a matter of making a few sacrifices, that’s different than absolutely not being able to afford it. Good for you for making your kids’ education a top priority.

My daughter last attended formal school in the 4th grade. We took her out when the school told us that she had learned all they had to teach her in language arts at the elementary school and that she would have to wait until middle school to learn anything new.

After that she was unschooled at home. She just turned 18 in March and finished her associates degree last August. We didn’t want to send her away to college at 15 so we had her take her first two years locally. She took a gap year this last year and starts her BA in August. Right now she is backpacking in Ireland.

Paying $500k for something you could do yourself for free is insanity.

This is an unfair characterization of my son, and you seem to assume we’ve just dumped our retarded problem child on someone else to “fix”. That’s simply not the case.

Not everyone is good at dealing with trolls.

My wife wanted to homeschool both kids, but I talked her out of it. :frowning: I used to think they’d miss out on important social learning, but now I think I was mistaken.

At this point, I don’t think either of my kids would go for it, but maybe I’ll bring it up again.

It’s not a moot question, though. I’ll do what’s best for the kids, and figure out a way to make the finances work. The question is about the value of a prep school education.

It would depend on the prep school, and your finances. Our discussing it here any further would depend on your not at first saying that you can’t afford it, then saying that you can. It makes it hard to guess what answers you are fishing for.