Public vs Private School – How Does a Parent Decide?

*post originally published 2010. I still get questions on this topic and thought it would be a good one to post again. I know this can be a tough decision for parents. :)

Last week I mentioned I’ll be sharing some questions I’ve gotten from readers.

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! Blessings, ~Jenn

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?

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  1. Joy

    Genny, I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading about your school decision. It mirrored our experience…right down to sending our son to 2 years of Christian school prior to Kindergarten.

    I vividly remember the day our decision was made. Like you I had researched and obtained much information. As I sat at our kitchen table with a piece of paper in front of me, line down the middle, I began making that pro/con list. Although I knew the Christian school would instill godly values, I also felt that was our role as parents and our son would not lack for biblical training in our home. For me, the biggest issue was safety. I felt like I was sending my little lamb off to the wolves. With head bowed, I again cried out to the Lord. I wanted to know that my son was going to the school of God’s choice, not mine. In the quietness that surrounded me, this question was impressed on my mind: Do you not trust Me to keep him safe? In an instant I knew that we were to send our son to the public school as an act of trust in the Lord.

    Like you, I was sad when his final year at the school ended. I was heavily involved as a volunteer with all his teachers, as well as with other teachers who needed assistance and also working in the Library. I held Bible study in my home for some mom’s from the school. The crossing-guard turned out to be a brand new Christian who had been praying for a Christian friend…and yep…the Lord sent me. :-) I just had blessing after blessing for our obedience and my son thrived in that setting. I’m still in contact with two of his teacher’s and continue to witness and show Christ’s love to them.

    He went on to attend a public High School, but now, off at University, he chose a Christian University. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am, when he is now living away from home, to know that He has the influence of other believers.

    Like you said Genny, I believe the school decision is very individual and there isn’t an all encompassing right or wrong answer. Each family needs to make a decision that is right for them. God will reveal His plan as we seek Him.


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