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public vs. private schools, which to choose

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I don't like public schools. Now, I don't have children yet, but I will eventually. My fiancee doesn't think we should shell out additional money to send them to private schools, but has agreed to if we determine that they would get a better education there.

Here's my dilemma: if we live in an area where the only affordable private schools (or only private schools, period) are Christian, which should I choose? Public schools do a terrible job of education (in general), but I also don't want my kids being indoctrinated with Christianity. My fiancee is Catholic, but has agreed that our children will not be brainwashed with Christianity in a way that makes other belief systems look ridiculous.

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Where there is a will there is a way. I agree that your children should be spared the trash that infests public schools but sticking them in a school where you know they will be indoctrinated is not much better. There are private schools all over the place. If you can't find one then you might want to move. It all depends upon how important you children will be to you. If I were in your position I would give anything to ensure that my children went to a quality school because (though I don't have children yet) having children is VERY important to me and it is my moral obligation to raise them in the best way possible including assuring that they go to a good school. Of course the school won’t be your biggest problem, your wife will be.

You have chosen to marry a theist and you are planning on having children with her. I realize that there are levels of Catholics from recovering to fanatical but unless she has renounced Catholicism you are playing with fire.

I’m not pretending to know your situation or your wife. But I cannot think of any reason why an Objectivist would marry a Catholic and worry about his children being indoctrinated at school when they have a much more effective indoctrinator at home.

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There have been endless discussions on the topic of marrying religious people, many of them focusing around my own situation. She is CINO (Catholic in name only). She knows next to nothing about her own religion, and about the only way she practices it is that she goes to church once in a while.

I don't even consider the idea of her trying to brainwash my children, not only because she has agreed not to, but also because she doesn't know enough about Christianity to do so.

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I don't like public schools. Now, I don't have children yet, but I will eventually. My fiancee doesn't think we should shell out additional money to send them to private schools, but has agreed to if we determine that they would get a better education there.

Here's my dilemma: if we live in an area where the only affordable private schools (or only private schools, period) are Christian, which should I choose? Public schools do a terrible job of education (in general), but I also don't want my kids being indoctrinated with Christianity. My fiancee is Catholic, but has agreed that our children will not be brainwashed with Christianity in a way that makes other belief systems look ridiculous.

First, I commend you and your wife on your forethought regrading children. Many seem to have the kids and then realize what is required of them.

If at all possible, I recommend looking for a montessori school. At least for preschool(2-6). They are usually cheaper then other private school($500-$1000) and will provide an excellent foundation of critical thought, focus, and interest in learning on which to build. Many, also provide scholorships which will reduce the cost of tuition. As a cautionary note, be very careful in chosing one as the name is not trade marked. You want to look for 'american montessori society' or 'international montessori society' cerified teachers. If at all possible, try reading a good introductory book on the subject to get a better idea of what to look for when you check out schools. Montessori Today by Polk would be a great place to start.

If montessori is not available or realistic and this is very dependent on you and your fiance's time constraints, but homeschooling is becoming more and more popular. I just went to a talk by Brad Thompson in which he explained the many benefits. Because of it's increase in popularity, many(even rural) areas have homeschool associations. With the networking aspect, you are able to have other parents mentor a small group of children within their own area of expertise. And you, of course would likewise have to teach thiers to some extent. If you can find a situation like this, it allows social oppurtunities for the children as well as increased resources from which to draw a well rounded education. Resources, that is, for you and your child. This reduces some of the burden from you, as you will not feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of knowledge required of the job.

If you truly are limited to public or religious schooling, I very hesitantly recommend the religious. Just try to find the one with the most secular and aristotilan atmosphere. If it is very traditional and focuses on the three R's they will be much better off then at most public schools. I recomend Dr.Peikoff's tapes on a rational curriclum as a basis from which to evaluate the school.

One final option is that many states have charter schools which teach differently(some montessori style) and focus on different things(science,etc). Many of them have 5 year waiting lists, so if you go that route, you should probably look at it as soon as you have a child.

Hope that helps a bit. Congrats on getting engaged and best of luck.

Gordon

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Tough subject for anyone who is a parent.

My take is that when the option is between your kid NOT learning how to think (public) vs. Learning how to think and also being exposed to some wacky ideas (private christian) teach him/her how to think. Religion and values come more from the home anyway.

Also, every private school should be evaluated on a case by case basis. Private does NOT mean that it has a good education program. I talked with Lisa VanDamme about this topic at OCON, and this is what she indicated. My kid (I'm a step parent so my wife gets 51% of the vote on his education) goes to public school in a small town with few private school options. The public teaching philosophy is horrendous, but not many options.

She said evaluate privates on a case by case basis. She also said if there are no good options to strongly consider home shool. She could probably provide good resources for this. This is how she started. If there are other Objectivists in your area consider pooling resources. I believe she was initially hired as a tutor for a few ARI staff kids.

The work Lisa is doing at Van Damme Academy is stunning (she's basically set up a private school now around an initial kernel of demand around ARI staff's kids). If I had the flexibility, I'd move to Irvine just for her school (no kidding here. it looks that good.) She also said she does have expansion plans but I don't know where and what sort of model she is considering.

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First, I commend you and your wife on your forethought regrading children. Many seem to have the kids and then realize what is required of them.

If at all possible, I recommend looking for a montessori school. At least for preschool(2-6). They are usually cheaper then other private school($500-$1000) and will provide an excellent foundation of critical thought, focus, and interest in learning on which to build. Many, also provide scholorships which will reduce the cost of tuition. As a cautionary note, be very careful in chosing one as the name is not trade marked. You want to look for 'american montessori society' or 'international montessori society' cerified teachers. If at all possible, try reading a good introductory book on the subject to get a better idea of what to look for when you check out schools. Montessori Today by Polk would be a great place to start.

If montessori is not available or realistic and this is very dependent on you and your fiance's time constraints, but homeschooling is becoming more and more popular. I just went to a talk by Brad Thompson in which he explained the many benefits. Because of it's increase in popularity, many(even rural) areas have homeschool associations. With the networking aspect, you are able to have other parents mentor a small group of children within their own area of expertise. And you, of course would likewise have to teach thiers to some extent. If you can find a situation like this, it allows social oppurtunities for the children as well as increased resources from which to draw a well rounded education. Resources, that is, for you and your child. This reduces some of the burden from you, as you will not feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of knowledge required of the job.

If you truly are limited to public or religious schooling, I very hesitantly recommend the religious. Just try to find the one with the most secular and aristotilan atmosphere. If it is very traditional and focuses on the three R's they will be much better off then at most public schools. I recomend Dr.Peikoff's tapes on a rational curriclum as a basis from which to evaluate the school.

One final option is that many states have charter schools which teach differently(some montessori style) and focus on different things(science,etc). Many of them have 5 year waiting lists, so if you go that route, you should probably look at it as soon as you have a child.

Hope that helps a bit. Congrats on getting engaged and best of luck.

Gordon

This is good advice. Thank you for the thought-out post. I'll have to look more into the montessori schools.

As for your recommendation of religious over public schooling, I tend to agree. I went to a Church of Christ school, and I believe that it was exponentially better for me than the public schools in the area. Then again, I ended up renouncing Christianity, whereas most people in my situation would not have.

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My advice on the topic is to take nothing on faith; in particular, do not automatically assume that public schools are complete garbage and that any private school is necessarily better. If you want to take some kind of moral stance like "I could not possibly send a child to school that's supported by taxes", then don't persuade yourself that the reason has to do with the quality of the schools. What you should do is actually determine objectively what the quality of the schools is in your (future) area. Determine what exactly you want your child's education to be -- and then see who teaches that. If you want your child to be fluent in Spanish and Arabic, send him to the local Venezuelan school. Most important is to be able to fill in the blanks in the sentence "I'm sending the kid to X school because X is good in ___ by criteria ___, even though Y school is good in ___ by criteria ___".

Home schooling isn't a bad idea, and if it seems impractical to you, keep in mind that a child's education does not have to be exclusively or even predominantly received at school. When you get to high school, there probably will be some areas where you need to rely on the greater competence of teachers (depending for example on how fluent you are in Spanish or Arabic, or whether you're competent in algebra of calculus), and perhaps that is what you should be saving for: a decent private high school, in case your local public schools are a disaster. But first: do the research to figure out what exactly you are looking for in an education for your child, and what the various alternatives are really offering.

OTOH, Montessori for the 2-6 range has no competition. You could send the child to ordinary daycare, I guess, but why would you?

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I've heard of Montessori schools, but I'm not really sure what they are. Can someone explain this?

There is also this thread: http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.php?showtopic=1726

For those considering Montessori, try to find an AMI rather than AMS school. (AMI adheres better to Montessori's philosophy.) I agree with posts above that a private school may not be any better than a public one. We will be doing AMI Montessori through Gr 6, then probably public with lots of parental supplementation.

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One more thing: a Catholic school specifically may be better academically than a public school or even other private schools. Catholicism has a long tradition of intellectual rigor that carries over into many Catholic schools. Whatever religious doctrine the child may be exposed to at such a school will probably be no worse than the environmentalism and socialism they will get at most other schools.

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Moose, at some point, get yourself one book on Montessori and read it. Any good (5 star) introduction from Amazon should do fine. I read a couple by Maria Montessori herself, but the principal of our son's school recommends "Montessori: A Modern Approach" to parents who want to understand the approach. His school is excellent, so I assume his recommendation is good. A brief idea will allow you to judge a school for yourself, whether it has the right certs or not.

The following are extremely summarized, but if I would ask a school the following questions to see if they're Montessori (in the pre-First Grade):

  • Is everything (math, language, etc.) taught primarily through physical "game" equipment?
  • Is phonics the sole way of teaching kids to read?
  • Are kids taught to "take care of themselves": how to button buttons, ties laces, and countless such things adults often do for them?
  • Is the classroom calm and quiet (a good Montessori classroom comes as a shock to someone who has never encountered on before)?
  • Mixed-age classrooms
  • A lot of individual learning, some group-learning, and almost no whole-classsroom teaching
  • Is writing taught before reading, and definitely not after?

Personally, I don't agree with that last one. If you read a sumamry book, you will be given the rationale behind these and other things, and can decide what you think is important and what is not.

A final point, while a day-care type setting be designed so that kids become little animals, some Montessoris can try to make kids little robots. i.e. while they say they're Montessori and they use all the equipment and stages, they are traditional old schoolrooms, without the cane! So, one has to detect the two types of false philosophies of education:

  • kids don't want to learn, so let's have fun and learn what we can
  • kids don't want to learn, but we will insist that they do

Since Montessori's are usually mixed-age, your child will be with the same teacher for 3 years. So, the individual teacher makes a lot of difference, even within the same school. Most school will allow prospective parents to sit in a class for 30 minutes for a quiet observation.

Personally, home-schooling was never an option for us. I'm sure my son's life would have been less rich if not for the many friends from school. On the other hand, if we had been born in this area and had a lot of family and friends around, with kids the same age, it would have been a better option. Still, if one is giving up a job or half a job in order to home school, it is a very expensive proposition. Further, unless this is what one really wants to do, being with a kid all day can get boring. I would question why a person who wants to do this did not take up a career as a teacher themselves.

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