May 21, 2009

The End of Tuition

When the school year ends this June, the Princess’s time at Catholic school will be at a close. After a lot of soul searching and debating Big Daddy and I decided it would be better for her to go back into public school.

Two years ago, our local school district was having financial trouble. They had put up a mileage, which had failed. After it failed, we were sent home a note asking which programs mattered the most to us so they could give them consideration when they had to make cuts. I answered in good faith and sent my survey in. Low and behold when the proposed cuts came out they echoed the things that the parents most wanted left uncut. Big Daddy and I felt as though they had manipulated parents, by scaring them into a yes vote in November.

Big Daddy made a lot of phone calls and talked to a lot of people. We understand about tax bases and new schools and growing population, the need for new buildings, etc. We saw salaries. We saw operating expenses. We made the decision to try and move the Princess into a new school. Not becuase of the quality of education, but the tactics her district were taking. We felt manipulated. We didn’t like that.

A friend recommended a local private parochial school. Her kids were happy there, she was pleased with the education and the school and the tuition rates were reasonable. I’m not Catholic. Big Daddy is, but lapsed, but that didn’t really bother us. The Princess was into the idea of religion, so after a visit and a meeting with the Principal, we enrolled the Princess there, yanking her out of the manipulative public school.

Year one seemed to go okay. The Princess seemed mostly happy. She happily went to birthday parties and besides a small SNAFU with another child at the beginning of the year, she was getting along okay. Her work was good, report card was good and she was looking forward to her First Communion in the Spring.

Moving into a small private school partway through your child’s education can be difficult. The majority of the children in the Princess’s class has been together for some time. Friendships were formed and forged and, admittedly, I’m a fairly shy person until I warm up. I volunteered. Showed up at class functions, and while people were always polite, I never really fit in. Since that’s kind of usual for me (my snarkastic sense of humor is a big part of my charm and that doesn’t’ come out of me at first), I didn’t worry. The Princess was happy and when the end of the school year rolled around, we willingly signed her up for third grade.

But things started to change.

Midway through the year the Princess began to complain that she was being excluded at recess. None of the other kids would play with her. Big Daddy and I debated. I feel like we have a pretty accurate assessment of who the Princess and Littlebit are in our heads. We certainly don’t subscribe to the idea that our little darlings are extra uber special, that no problem they encounter could POSSIBLY be attributable to them, etc, etc. The general assesment we make of the Princess is that she’s probably a little behind socially and a little bit shy in some situations, but overall she does okay making friends and interacting with her peers.

At Christmas time the Princess and I had a long talk about the level to which this exclusion had gone. No one was mean to her, per se, but when she approached any of the girls in her class to play at Recess, she was rebuffed every time. I asked about a few kids who I thought she had a bit of a connection to and they were reacting/responding the same way.

I spent a few weeks being livid. Like seeing RED livid. Friends suggested play dates or get togethers to try and foster relationships (I was like eff ’em, damn 8 year old ingrates!!) or volunteering in class (already did that). My heart was hurting for the Princess, who is generally a nice, non-bratty kid who likes people (not animals so much. I mean, she’s no serial killer, but she’s not a huge fan. Oddly enough, she wants to be a Vet. Don’t get it.) She admitted that she was so tired of getting shot down that she was at the point of not asking anymore.

How do you handle that?

We talked to the Princess. We laid out her options. Honestly, we figured the small private school thing could go two ways. Awesome close connected friendships, or exclusions based on connections already being made. The latter seems to be true for the Princess. Over the last few weeks we’ve talked to the Princess about going back to the local public school. She hasn’t been able to make a decision. Today I worked on a list of pros and cons with her. Not once did she mention missing her “friends” as a reason for not leaving the small private school. In fact she listed her inability to make friends as her top “bad” thing about private school and the larger pool of available friends in her list of “good” things about public school The only thing that was missing was a decision.

Big Daddy and I told her this afternoon that she wouldn’t be returning to private school. It would be public school for her next year. The Princess broke into a huge relieved smile and skipped out of the door to play with her friends.

Will public school fix her issues? We don’t know. What we DO know is that with 6 fourth grade class rooms the odds of the Princess finding friends are much higher than among 20 students who have already forged their connections and left her out.

I wanted to add, I am in no way against the private school experience.

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