It is probably because I am in a very tony neighbourhood, hanging out with the 10% of Canada, but every single time I meet parents who are about to put their kids into kindergarten, I always get asked:
So what private school are you sending them to?
There are waiting lists and interviews for a lot of them you know!
Then when I look befuddled and stammer out that I planned on sending Little Bun to the local school, they sort of double-take and give me a look of pure confusion and surprise, then re-arrange their features to look normal again, ending with a “Oh. Really!”
Or, I don’t say anything or start any conversation, and these parents go on and on about which school is the best, and so on, and how they researched this and that, and then finish with a proud smile having suggested all of this, only to find out that I plan on sending them to the local school (again, cue look of surprise).
My neighbour is the perfect example of this. Her son is my son’s age, and he is being chauffeured to a private boy’s school starting this year.
The school is all-boys only which she is certain helps boys focus because there are no girls around for competition and/or distractions as they age, and there are all of these activities, etc etc….
I am listening politely, but not commenting. I don’t disagree that there are schools of thought on this, but she seems to be REALLY into making sure I know that this school is expensive and he has to wear a uniform.
Look, schools are a serious business.
Everyone and their dog wants their kid to speak Mandarin, code at the age of 5 and start an insta-business that makes them a billionaire by the time they are 8. (Yes these kids actually exist…)
I have met parents on the playground who have asked if I have heard of anyone who would be interested in nannying for them, speaking Mandarin.
Are you kidding me? — Was my initial reaction — but now that I have been asked multiple times, I have perfected my blank expressionless face in response. It got to the point where I ranted about this — should we all start learning Chinese and why English is the global language (though this English post is not Mandarin-centric).
If you don’t believe my personal opinion (why would you), you can read this Quartz article: People in the West can stop obsessing over learning Chinese; in short what they are saying in the article here:
“[…] the difficulty foreigners have learning Mandarin and its written script makes the language unlikely to challenge the dominance of English in international trade.
(Indeed, even during Japan’s dramatic post-war economic expansion, Japanese never came close to toppling English as the global lingua franca.) “
…just about sums it up for me as to why I am not panicking about Little Bun not learning Mandarin.
It is so much pressure on the kids, the parents… and I feel like a right maverick refusing to join in to this and buy into it so early.
I feel like a weirdo.
A cheap weirdo….. AGAIN
OH NOT AGAIN *sob*….
I ALREADY FEEL STRANGE ENOUGH.
This may all sound very weird to all of you who read my Week of Money posts, because you will all know that Little Bun is already doing things ahead of his age group such as reading, addition, subtraction, beginning in multiplication, etc.
I don’t push him into any of it, but I do spend a lot of time with him, teaching him when he asks questions.
It just sort of evolved like that from letter flash cards I made for him when he was a baby, and then one day, he started spelling ‘D-O-G’ in the car around the age of 2.
From there, it just exploded into him reading (and reading my EMAILS and text messages out loud in public if you can believe that).
His thirst to want to know more is starting to really fatigue me (yes this is humblebragging but also very true because I am tired from work as-is) and he has started on coding, learning the planets, and now learning the treble clef notes for the piano because he was hassling me so much to learn it, that I decided to start with the treble clef and placement of the notes on the piano to prep him for when I eventually buy one (this is happening this year).
All of this, was just homegrown learning, and with a very curious, insatiable child.
I did not Tiger Mom him, I just answered questions and played with him. Now he believes that math is a lot of fun, and he wants to play “math games” all the time with Mommy and Daddy.
Which brings me to the whole reason why I am not putting him in a private school —
It seems like a crapshoot, to be honest.
You could end up with a kid who (like my partner) had absolutely nothing growing up, in the worst suburbs of Paris, where most of his neighbourhood turned to petty crime and drugs for the most part, to end up where he is today, successful and having gone to the best schools even money could not buy an admission spot in.
Or you could end up with a kid who had everything growing up from private tutors to traveling abroad for the summers to learn second and third languages, to the best private schools at $100,000 a year (starting in kindergarten) that money could buy, and end up working a ‘normal’ desk job that pays well, but not extravagantly — or they just take a place in the family business, which they would have gotten anyway, just by having been born into the right family.
But private schools are better!
Sure, putting my kid in a private school would in theory, expose him to better teachers, students with parents who are more apt to push them to be better as they probably come from wealthier families, and smaller classes where he would learn more.
But in reality, is that true? I am not so certain.
I have gone to school with these private school kids, and they did not know more than I did (granted, I was a bit of an Alpha Type A student, so that has to be taken into account), and in many cases, they didn’t make it into the same schools that I did even with all of their money.
Private school kids I feel, also grow up with a certain mindset of what is normal. I’m a little leery of placing him in such an environment to form his little brain.
It may be ‘normal’ for many of these kids to take three vacations a year — summers in France, winters in Aspen, and some sort of random beach vacation; so their kind of normal is not the general population’s kind of normal.
Or “normal” to own three homes. Or to have a nanny or two. And private chauffeurs. And get a luxury car gifted to them at the age of 16.
I wouldn’t really want Little Bun to be in that kind of environment where he will feel like he is lacking in some way because everyone in his class has a private jet and he feels left out because we don’t have one (I am exaggerating here, but you know what I mean.)
I want him to FEEL like he belongs at least, even if he isn’t ‘normal’.
I wouldn’t want him to grow up feeling less than dirt, being the ‘poor kid’ whom everyone has sympathy for, which sounds like absolute nonsense because we are far from being poor, and yet, I feel like he would feel left out because we are a little oddball / unconventional.
(You know what I mean.)
I also don’t really want him to be in a school where he is considered the rich kid either because his parents drive nice cars and live in a certain area.
I know parents who have kids who go to school in ONE branded polo shirt, and suddenly everyone is jealous / angry that they could afford it (even if they had no clue it was purchased secondhand).
Middle ground is what I am aiming for.
I want him to grow up grounded, yet be given the tools to be successful in life.
I cannot rely on the school or teachers 100% to do this for me no matter what I pay, because I can see even now, that my interactions with him and my work in teaching him everything early on, has made a huge impact on his little life so far.
I also am not so certain I see the value in paying $100,000 for a school at such a young age.
Here in Québec, the consensus amongst parents (colleagues of mine, and other parents I meet in general), is that the only time private schooling matters is when they hit middle school or older. Then, it is not very expensive (around $2000 a year they tell me), and it makes a big difference versus keeping them in the public system.
Sure! Why not?
I can agree with that, if that is what most parents do for their kids.
What I don’t want to do, is end up getting stars in my eyes, visiting private schools like my neighbours, and coming back excited that my kid gets to wear a uniform every day in school, and paying a $30,000 tuition privilege to do so. Plus don’t forget books, laptop and whatever else is extra on top of that, so factor in another $5000 – $10,000 a year.
Let’s say $50,000 to round it all off. A year.
Until 18 years old.. which comes up to almost $650,000 by the time they’re ready for university.
Isn’t life already competitive enough?
I am also not so certain I want Little Bun to start being interviewed for these schools. He has plenty of time to be competitive (he already is, when we play Rescue Mission Team with the toy trucks), and to fight with other kids for the best spots. He doesn’t need to start now and so early. I almost feel sad for the loss of his childhood innocence once he starts school.
I am also fine with him not knowing Mandarin, not being pushed into Advanced Placement classes and so on, because I am starting to see his personality develop — a bit of a perfectionist (oops, got that from Mommy and Daddy, I am afraid), and a little Type A… with a hint of OCD maybe.
In my not so professional opinion — I think he’ll be fine.
Besides you can only bring a child so far before they decide to take the ball and run with it on their own, for their own self-satisfaction and pride.
I know this, because I was that kid. My parents didn’t really spend time (or had the time) to spend with me on homework. My siblings and I left each other alone and never helped each other either.
We all became successful in our own right, and in our own way because we developed a sense of inner achievement to be the best, and that is something that cannot be purchased or truly taught if they don’t want to learn it.
In a way, I want him to operate (the way we do) keeping this in mind:
All I can do at this point is use my money wisely and save it for when it matters as he gets older, and to enrich or supplement his learning at school, but at home — with buying a piano, taking him out to play soccer, learning how to swim, learning about planets, etc.
We have the money but we are not putting Little Bun in private school until we think it makes a real difference (if at all).