Public vs. Private School: How Does a Parent Decide?

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Just a simple way for moms to come alongside other moms…

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Here’s a great one I got a couple of weeks ago. (Thanks Jenn, for emailing me.)

Jenn’s question:

Hi Genny,

I just want to let you know I enjoy reading your blog. Found it through Hearts @ Home. I have a question for you about school choice. Do you send your children to a public or private school? I read the other day (at 5MinutesforFaith) how you received an e-mail from your son’s teacher. How cool is that! Anyway I have two girls and really struggle with what to do about school. I would love to hear back from you!


My reply:

Hi Jenn,

Thanks for your email. I’m glad you enjoy my blog and I appreciate your sweet words.

To answer your question, both of my kids go to public school (3rd and 5th grade) and they have since kindergarten. I completely understand what you’re going through. Mike and I had the same struggle when our kids were nearing the end of preschool.

I think each family situation is different, and each community and school is different too, so while I can’t make a blanket recommendation on what to do, I’m happy to share my personal experience…

Our kids went to private preschool at our church for two years each. It was wonderful: the nurturing environment, the foundation of faith, the curriculum, the teachers, the atmosphere. We loved everything about it. Which was one of the reasons, as kindergarten crept up on us, we really struggled with what to do…

Should we keep our kids at private school, or should we have them register at the local public school in our neighborhood?

There were pros and cons to both decisions and we weighed them all.

I remember writing a list of all the things that I thought were good and bad about each option.

We loved our kids going to the school at our church. It was already like home. Yet many of the kids in our neighborhood would be attending the school around the corner, and we loved that sense of neighborhood community too.

The public school was within walking distance.

The private school wasn’t. And while the tuition there was worth it, it was expensive.

Back and forth we went, not sure what the right choice was.

We talked about it. We talked to others about it. We prayed. We researched.

And in the end, we’d gathered enough information to decide: We would register our daughter for kindergarten at the public school around the corner and see how it went. We knew that nothing was permanent and we could make a change if we needed to.

Well, no change was needed.

Our daughter, and then our son, went the school in our neighborhood and loved it. We did too. Everything about it–the teachers, the administrators, the quality education, the location, the friends our kids have made.

The friends we’ve made.

And now, years later, I’m sad at the prospect of my kids ever leaving their school. For us, the decision to send them there was the right one. Looking back over the last several years, I know that in my heart.

But, again, I think this decision is different for each family because it depends on so many factors. I have friends whose kids are homeschooled, friends whose kids go to private school, and friends whose kids go to public school, and they are all happy with their decisions. The situation can change over time too, as kids move from elementary to middle school, etc.

So to hopefully help in some small way, here are some things that Mike and I did (and I think anyone can do, whether considering private, public, or a home school environment) when we were trying to decide what to do…

1. Get information (talk to parents who’ve chosen the option you’re considering. Read and do research too.)

2. Visit the school to get a feel for it. Talk to the staff there.

3. Weigh the pros and cons (make a list like we did; it really helped).

4. Consider what might be gained or lost by each decision.

5. Think about where your child would thrive (you know your kids best so if there’s a compelling reason they should be in one setting vs. another, consider that).

6. Listen to your gut (you can never underestimate a mother’s or father’s intuition).

7. Last, recognize that nothing is permanent (of course you want to minimize change for your kids, but if you make a decision and realize it’s the wrong one for your family or kids, change is always possible).

I hope that helps. Thanks again for your question. I’m sure you’ll make the right choice for your girls!



What about you? Have you grappled with this decision too? What did you decide and how is it going?


  1. Oh man, I am so confused on this one. But I am deciding between private, public, or home-school?Good thing I have a few years :O)Thanks for your tips and what has been working for you guys! I appreciate it!

  2. That's such a great answer, Genny! I know I struggled with this too and ended up putting my five year old in public kindergarten. Like you said, it's not permanent and things may change based on different factors. :-)

  3. It was so true what you said about each family being different and the circumstances changing.My oldest went to public school up until 3rd grade and then we were called to homeschool her and since then our two boys have only been homeschooled. IT totally works for us.In the end I think the Lord will direct those who seek Him and His direction.HUGSKim

  4. For us, the struggle is with our daughter, who has Down syndrome. And it has a little different parameters. Her brothers will attend Catholic school (no brainer for us) but they're not really equipped for her. We explored getting special ed started but there didn't seem to be enough local interest. So now I'm going to educate myself on inclusion and campaign for her to get to attend that way… It will be a wrench if we have to put the kids in separate schools.

  5. Your answer was great! We struggled with the same thing with our oldest, who is now in 5th grade. However, we mad a huge error in our decision. I also went against something I have learned never to go against…my intuition…which kicked in about a month before kindergarten was to start. We chose private school. It was a huge mistake! One, in fact, that still brings horrible memories for our son. It breaks my heart that we made the choice we did. It took about two years of counseling to really undo the damage that had been done by staff simply not believing our son and us when we begged for help in doing something about a bully. When we look back now, we should have pulled our son out of school right away and put him in public school. First grade in our public school was incredible…second grade, even better and now in 5th grade, our son is doing so well and has made many, many friends over the course of his public school years.When our daughter started kindergarten this year, there was o doubt that public school was the place to go. Our kids LOVE school…and that makes it easy for this mom to send them off on their day!

  6. I agree, every situation is different.We went through pretty much the same questions you outlined. In the end, we chose public school for our older boys. Our youngest will start next year. :) And they're doing just fine. I guess the thing that made it Ok no matter which way we chose is that we realize WE are ultimately responsible for their education. We stay involved, supplement (where needed), and even help them see differences when what is taught contradicts our values or convictions.

  7. My husband and I had the same struggle and we re-evaluate our decision each year. So far public school has worked extremely well for us (my kids are in 2nd & 4th grades). I think we will consider an alternative for high-school, but are still praying.-FringeGirl

  8. Very good answer Genny. I taught in the public schools for 31 years and transferred to a private k-12 Episcopal school. I have been there for the last three years and I love it. Some areas I would add for parents to look at:1.class size2.available scholarships in private3.stability of the current assignment plan in the public schoolWhat I love about my current school is that I can pray with my students in the morning and before meals.

  9. Some really great point Genny… this is such a tough decision!Also… (I hate when people do this to me) but maybe talk a little more about the homeschooling option? Just a thought.Blessings!Amanda

  10. Thanks everyone for sharing your experiences and suggestions. I look forward to hearing more! And Amanda, thanks for the feedback. If anyone is reading this and can share their homeschool experience, that'd be great!

  11. Sending your child to the right school is always a struggle, but I had such a bad experience in public school, it was not an option for us, though we did consider it several times over the years.So we went private Christian, but within three years, found that wasn't the best school for our son. Off to another private Christian school, smaller this time. While both were good schools, my son couldn't thrive in the restrictive environment so we brought him home for three years.Then to a third private Christian school where two of my kids now attend full time and two other part time. I also teach part time there.All that to say, it's not just about private vs. public. It's about which situation, which school is right for your child and in our case, it changed about every three years!

  12. It's about the situation; I agree. Thanks for sharing how that's changed for you over the years. :)

  13. Jo

    Tricky one – some public schools are very good some are not. Both my sons went to very good primary schools but secondary school was a mixed bag – worked for one son but not as successful for the other. My husband was anti private school so that did cause some conflict.I went to a private school and have always thought I received a very good education and had a lovely time.

  14. I completely agree that it depends on each individual situation! I have children ages 15, 13, 6 and 4. My children all go to public school. However, starting next year we will be homeschooling our 13 year old son, mostly at his insistence. I never thought I would homeschool my children. But sometimes circumstances warrant a change in our though processes. My two girls (oldest and youngest) LOVE public school and thrive in it. My sons … not so much. My younger son is doing really well and loves it now, but he has developmental delays so it is likely that at some point we will change him either to private school or bring him home.As long as parents do what they feel is best for THEIR kids, there is no wrong answer.

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