by maralyn ellis
A little history here. I went to public school. My husband went to public school (well, a publicly-funded Catholic school). Just about everyone I knew went to public school or publicly-funded separate school. (That was back when everyone thought they were going to grow up to be an astronaut—I still think that’d be cool.)
So I was always a big supporter of the public school system and I always thought I’d continue to support it and send my kids to public school.
Bro-in-law bashing aside, when it came time to consider a school for our son, a couple of other political factors intervened to help us make our decision. First, the public school teachers went on an extended strike, and second, they pushed the grade one reading curriculum down into kindergarten (and eventually junior kindergarten) so that what a child was once learning as a 6-year old in grade one—5 if autumn born—was now being taught to 5 and 4-year olds (and eventually to 4 and 3-year olds). After a massive dive into private-school approaches and alternative schools in our neck of the woods—Halton Region in Ontario—we chose a private elementary education over public/separate school, for both of our sons.
Now people don’t think their kids are going to grow up to be astronauts anymore, but they do think they might be famous, or at least that they should continue their education, or at least get a job and move out on their own... eventually. So there are lots of stressors today around whether one’s child is getting the education they need—let alone deserve—at their local public or separate school. According to one study on Ontario private schools, "Decade by decade, the percentage of Ontario students enrolled in private schools has increased" (click here to read the study). Across the country, it's estimated there are approximately 348,656 students enrolled in 1,700 private schools (click here for more). A generation ago "only 1.9% of the student population in 1960" received private education, today, "up to 8% of children [are] enrolled in a private school... in Canada" (click here for this article).
- Robotics clubs
- Literature groups
- Model UN
- DECA clubs
Unless you move to be near a school—like we did for my boys' elementary education—it's often just fortuitous if the school in your neighbourhood offers something exceptional and perfect for your child. After attending private elementary, we lucked out with our local public high school for our sons because it offered an IB stream. Our eldest attended when the International Baccalaureate (IB) Computer Science Certificate was available and I think that helped him get into Software Engineering at university. Our youngest attended our local public high school when they started up a FIRST Robotics club and I think that helped him get into Mechatronics Engineering. Some would call this fate, but both were certainly blessed with some good fortune... and a good work ethic—it skipped a generation! (Note that I'm still waiting for the public "schools for the sciences" where a kid can start studying to become an astronaut, or a space scientist, or at least a physicist... because I still think that'd be cool.)
And if you ever find yourself thinking, around the same time each year, "We can make it to June with this teacher..." it might be time to consider your private school options! I continue to be a staunch supporter of public education (and that old dream of landing on the moon, or in my son's updated vision, landing in Silicon Valley). Although the vast majority of people still send their children to public school—I know there are many, many reasons to pick a private school to fit your child instead of expecting your child to morph him/herself to fit a school.