Save. Spend. Splurge.

And so the Schooling Shaming Game Begins….

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 am a minimalist who cuts her own hair and doesn’t own a television!


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.

So no.

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).

What say you? Am I off? On track? Help!


  • Amyl Ghanem

    I have a 9 year old in public school, and keep a watchful eye that she is getting what she needs from the system. I’m ready to change her to private based on her needs, at any time I think its best for her. My main reason for doing so would be for her to get the attention she needs as she is not very assertive. The public school she goes to is the best in the city, with many well educated families. So most of the kids are bright and motivated. This is excellent for her, but she also doesn’t get the opportunity to stand out. Another issue is language, as mine goes to school in French which is far from her native language, thus presenting either an opportunity for learning (my goal!) or an opportunity for getting confused (what I think sometimes happens to my shy kid!).

    That is my 2cents.

  • Tre

    We applied for our son to attend a private school when he was in first grade and he was not accepted. The admissions lady very nicely called me to tell me that my son just wasn’t smart enough to attend their school and it wouldn’t be fair to put him in that situation. Twelve years later he is attending one of the top universities in the country on a full-ride scholarship.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      That is really painful for me to hear that people judge kids that young and tell parents who may have believed them that their kids are not smart enough. WTF.

      I’m glad he has proven them wrong.

  • C

    (American) public school all the way baby. Now, I did do talented and gifted every year pretty much except for the one year I transferred schools and they put me in the classroom with all the worst students at the school rather than wait for my intelligence test to be scored. I went to a small liberal arts college on merit scholarship. Grad school through graduate assistantships and whatnot. Now a six figure b*tch. You know what employers want to know? Where I got my final degree. You know what has never mattered? Where I went to elementary school. And the habit of frugality served me well the entire time too. Your intelligent and curious child will probably do well wherever you put him especially if he never gets too “used” to having money (because practicality is ALSO important). But aptitude really does predict success… I do research on this stuff. A mentally nourishing and stable environment is also key… but that can be gotten at home for “free.”

  • Jodie

    Competitive parents will always be around. It doesn’t end. They only switch topics as their children age. Too much of their identity is wrapped up in their kids and I pity them. It begins in preschool and continues all the way through university. Don’t forget your children’s extra curricular activities, jobs, spouses and more.

    I have three adult children, each very different and unique. Two are college graduates with good jobs. The youngest is taking a gap year and working for me. He is getting quite an education in how the real world works. At some point perhaps he will go to college. Or maybe a trade school. Or maybe he will continue working for our business. As long as my children are happy, self-sufficient, productive citizens of society I really don’t care what others think.

    You (and your partner) are your child’s guardians. No one knows him better than you. Of course you will look out for his best interests. Do not let the expectations of others burden you with unnecessary guilt. Here’s the thing, you can always adjust or make changes if things aren’t working for your child. In the meantime, enjoy little bun and his precocious ways. The old saying that the days are long but the years are short is oh, so true.

  • Lori S.

    I have 8 friends who are teachers: some private (very expensive), some private (religion affiliated: Jewish, Catholic), some public, etc. here in the USA.

    They ALL say the same thing: Parental involvement is the factor that leads a child to success in school. Parental involvement meaning: checking on them – do they have homework, did they complete and submit homework, sitting down and helping them if needed (NOT doing it for them) and generally talking to them about topics they are interested in as a result of the homework.

    For example: Here in Seattle on the Public Broadcast Station some of the shows are aimed towards children, some to adults and some to both that show people how animals live, how bridges are built, history of the world, county, etc – they all have an educational focus. A lot of their students developed curiosity and interest in science or nature due these shows ;and excelled in their studies. Even the travel shows have been sited as inspiring the kids because they give examples of other cultures, food and places.

    The other factor my friends point to is reading to children when they are young and helping them develop an interested in reading. Furthermore encouraging a desire to read and therefore expand their world.

    Parental involvement is key according to my teacher friends. As you are clearly already involved and responsive to your child’s interests – you are way ahead of the game!! Your involvement and time you spend with him will set him up for success no matter what school he attends.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.


      Thank you. I have always struggled with this idea of giving him everything (of course we can afford the $$ schools), and then the idea of wanting him to be NORMAL and grow up with a diverse group of people from different socio-economic backgrounds so he doesn’t live in a bubble the way some of my friends do (some grew up only in private school settings and assume everyone has everything they have and find it strange that you do not have $600 to blow on sunglasses during university).

      I am thrilled to hear it is about parental involvement. I am super super involved in his learning. I help him as much as I can, I try to explain everything, we read books and get curious about things together, and for sure, I already did the book thing with him.

      He already knows how to read and he is 5, so I feel like I achieved that milestone pretty early on. And he LIKES to read.. just isn’t confident enough to read on his own quite yet and wants me beside him

  • Mia

    So I attended many different types of schools–private independent, private church-affiliated, good large public, and bad large public. So I have seen the whole spectrum, you could say.

    From what I gather from what you have said about little Bun, good/safe large public in a safe neighborhood may be the best option since it is safe but it is big enough that everyone finds a friend group there and kids fall into groups based on interests. Even more introverted kids tend to find a friend group based on interests. At the smaller privates I went to, kids can have a harder time finding a friend group if the school isn’t made up of kids like them, or if it is a small class a handful of kids who are dominating extroverts are the center of attention.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Oh! I would not like that. I want a bigger, more diverse group then so he can find his people…

      • Mia

        I think for boys in particular a bigger school might be better if his interests are not super-sporty. At a smaller school, recess gets dominated by what the athletic boys want to do. At a bigger school, there are more things to do and groups of kids for non-sporty kids.

  • Angela

    I’m a teacher working in the private school system for 15 years. I work in international schools overseas where we also have a diverse student population. I’ve also taught briefly in private schools in Ontario and I also grew up in the public school system. I also have friends that work in the public school system in Ontario.

    If your child is hard working and motivated to learn as you suggest I think that your child will do well in any system, public or private. Having said that not all private schools are the same, the CAIS (Canadian Accredited Independent Schools) accredits many private schools under national standards. Do your homework if going this route. Private schools may also have more resources that support our child’s interests.

    For students that have particular learning needs, large class sizes in public schools, budget cutbacks might make it easy for these kids to slip through the cracks.

    Again though, if your child is hard working and motivated to learn as you suggest I think that your child will do well in any system.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Thank you! I am always worried about whether or not I am doing the right thing. I feel like because I made it through I should be fine, and I was a lot like him when I was younger — quiet, introverted, painfully shy…

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