My husband and I disagree on our child’s education

March 16, 2021 by No Comments

Dear Dr. Ellen: Our oldest, soon to be 5, is going to kindergarten next year. I teach in a middle school in a public school system which happens to be in an affluent neighborhood with an excellent record of achievement and very good families. In fact, I attended this system and graduated 20 years ago. I really want my son to go to school there. My husband wants him to go to a Catholic school down the road from our home (we are Catholic). He went to Catholic school growing up and I went to a public school. My sister is a kindergarten teacher at the public school where I want my son to go. She would not be his teacher since she is his Aunt, but she would be there for him each day. In fact, we live down the street from each other so she could drive him to school each day and then a teacher bus would take him to my school (the middle school in the system) at the end of each day (the schools are about a mile from each other). My parents live right between the public school and my brother’s three children also attend this public school system. I’ve forgotten some background info. I teach and my husband stays home with the kids. So, I could more easily be a part of my son’s activities if he were at the school near where I teach. It would be too hard to get to the Catholic School for me during the day. I feel that I would be totally left out if he went there. In addition, it is EXPENSIVE and it would REALLY stretch us to do this. Then, there is the academic quality of each school. In my opinion, no contest! I know everyone says their kids are gifted, but our oldest may truly be and there are no enrichment (or special needs for that matter) programs available at the Catholic school. My husband likes the idea of religious things being around (on display) and talked about and thinks it will be a better environment. He feels public schools may provide bad examples that he says he saw first hand at my middle school-language, etc. I feel he will get what he needs through our home and religious classes without putting us in financial strain (he says it won’t) and possibly not being able to offer our children other opportunities – piano, sports, etc. I’ve made a huge list of pros and cons and I continue to feel that I really want my son at my school system. (As do my sister. But obviously he can only go one place and a decision must be made. We don’t live in my school system zone but since I teach there, my children can go there. I was hoping you might have some thoughts on this. – Marilyn

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Dear Marilyn: I always believe that when there is a decision to make, you have to pick the one that feels less worse. Most people think once they make a decision they will feel good about it. Very rarely in life does that happen. Usually, it’s a decision that unfortunately, no matter which way you go, it isn’t going to feel good. That is the situation you and your husband are in right now. If you get your way and enroll him in the public school system you’ll feel guilty for going against your husband’s wishes. If you enroll him in the Catholic school, you’ll feel resentful. If your husband gets his way, he’ll feel guilty that he’s not only going against your wishes but also the entire family. So, no matter what, both guilt and resentment are not emotions that will feel good for either of you. So, I decided to look at what is best for a 5 year old. I think going to a neighborhood school and coming home as soon as possible to be with his dad and siblings is best for a child who is in kindergarten. At that age, it doesn’t matter whether the school is public or private.

I also don’t think it’s fair to make your sister responsible for driving him to school everyday. What if she gets sick? What if she has to go in early because the principal has called a teacher’s meeting? What if she decides to take off a few days for a mini-vacation? What if the alarm clock doesn’t go off? It might be fun for a while but that is a big responsibility for an aunt to take on for the long haul.

The next point I’d like to address is you being involved in your son’s activities. Since you are teaching full time, I’m not sure how that would be possible. You couldn’t leave your students in the middle of the day to go on a field trip or attend his class. As for being dropped off after school, you may have to help a student after class or detain someone for bad behavior or meet with a parent to discuss a child’s progress. Think of the anxiety you would have knowing that your son is waiting for you to take him home. I think you would put a great deal more stress on yourself than you already have. Also, if he has to be picked up from school in the middle of the day because of illness or an accident, wouldn’t it be easier for your husband to go and get him if he was close by rather than having to put the other 2 children in the car and drive a lot further to get him? (I’m assuming that the public school is a long drive.)

It is wonderful that your son has the benefit of a stay-at-home parent who can take him to and from school everyday. Children love routine and predictability. Kindergarten will be a big enough change for your child. Why increase his travel time to and from school which means less play time, expose him to more affluent children who may have a different lifestyle than he does, and increase the amount of people in his life who he will have to depend on daily. Your child is very lucky to have 2 wonderful parents who have his best interests at heart. But, you are right, someone has to make the final decision. Since your husband is home and has a deep bond with your son, why not allow him to be the one to make it. Here’s what you should say, “You know how strongly I feel about the public school system. I’ve gone over it in my mind a hundred times and I know you have done the same. I’m going to leave the final decision to you because I know that you have our son’s best interest at heart even though we see things differently. I am willing to enroll him in Catholic school if you feel that is best for him right now. In a year we can then evaluate his progress. If he is happy, likes his teacher, and makes lots of friends, and it is not a financial burden, then he can continue. If not, you’ll agree that we will transfer him. If you decide that he can start public school, I promise to do the same. At the end of a year, we’ll evaluate his progress. If he isn’t happy, then we will transfer him to Catholic school.

As for your own peace of mind, try to realize that nothing has to be set in stone and nothing is “forever.” What seems to be best for you and your child today may very well change after a year. – Dr. Ellen

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