March 28 11

You know you have an internet addiction when you plop down on your couch with your giant coffee and your remote (or converter, as some of my friends call it. Converter? Really?) and your laptop and you are all set to write something completely profound

(about the price of a Jewish Day School education. It’s high, for those who are playing at home. It’s, like, $15,000 a year per child high. And, as you know, I have three children. And don’t get me started on high school tuition because that’s up somewhere in the $24,000 a year range but my oldest is only in 4th grade and I really just can’t even bring myself to think about what the price tag will be by the time she reaches 9th grade.

And I wanted to write about how I am reading articles about people making the radical decision to switch their children from private school to public school to gasps of horror! from their friends and family and I am sitting and nodding my head in solidarity and realizing that I am a huge fan of public school and my children are in Jewish Day School because that’s all we’ve ever known and because that’s all our family and friends have ever known and there are so many things I love about it. I love that my children learn so much about their heritage and holidays and the history of us as Jews. I love that Isabella knows the entire Passover story and over the weekend I watched as she and her friend Zachary put on a play complete with a baby Moses in the basket. I love that Emily and Joshua speak Hebrew fluently.

But, at the end of the day, it’s just a ridiculous amount of money. We are budgeted into the ground and are forced to dip into our savings each month just to make ends meet…even though my husband and I make more than a decent living between the two of us…and yet. We are not saving. We are not able to save. We moved further north, north, north of the city into the Toronto nosebleeds because that’s what we could afford. We drive un-fancy cars. You are going to have to trust me on this one…I do drive a mini-van, but it’s not an Odyssey OR a Sienna. We don’t go on vacation unless it’s to visit family. My children will likely never visit a Disney theme park. I can’t afford to send Emily to sleepover camp. We buy our children’s clothing at Target and Old Navy. We struggle, because we pay $45,000 a year in tuition. And it’s not, as people will argue, so I can live a lavish lifestyle. I don’t want to have the extra $45,000 so I can drive a better car or I can wear designer clothing. I’d like to have the extra money to give us a little wiggle room. I’d like to not have to panic when we have to use the chunk of money we have been saving for our dog’s surgery. I’d like to be able to let my children see the rest of the world. I’d like to be able to get on a plane and visit my sister one last time before she moves to AUSTRALIA. I’d like to be able to take my kids to visit their cousins. I’d like to be able to SAVE for their college educations. I’d like to have less pressure on me to make a certain amount of money to be able to make tuition payments when I’d so much rather keep the job I have and love and be able to take my kids to school and pick them up from school and know their friends and know their teachers. I’d rather be THEIR MOM ALL THE TIME and work when *I* want to than be the person who works too much just to pay their tuition.

Anyway, this big expensive elephant in the room keeps weighing on my mind and my wallet. And I have to wonder…is it really worth it?)

but then you see that your site is down and has been down for almost four hours and then the shaking starts. And then the only thing you can think about is tweeting about how annoyed you are with Mochahost and that maybe you are looking into a new host and then – miraculously – the minute after you whine and bitch about it on twitter your site is back up and you can get back onto the couch and finish your coffee and write something completely profound, but you just can’t remember what you were going to talk about…

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  1. wow, the cost of their school is about equal to my teacher salary (before I was laid off). I can’t even comprehend.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Tammi Marie on March 28, 2011
  2. College is so important and so expensive. Public school is real life; kids deprived of it have a harder time adjusting in college. Just my humble opinion.
    Working outside of the home was my challenge but we wanted to afford things like you mention so hi ho hi ho; now my kids are college grads and scoffed at other kids who had never done laundry, etc. Parents of working moms tend to be more self-reliant I guess.
    Wow, big dilemma.

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    Comment by Linda on March 28, 2011
  3. I guess I have to disagree, Linda, with your point that kids deprived of public school have a harder time adjusting in college. I went to jewish day school my entire life…and didn’t have any trouble adjusting to college and don’t really know anyone else who had trouble.

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    Comment by ali on March 28, 2011
  4. I miss you too!

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    Comment by Charna on March 28, 2011
  5. Oh man, Ali. That’s rough. I can’t even imagine. I can’t. $45K? FORTY FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS.

    I was accosted by a Jewish Day School guy in the supermarket yesterday, amusingly enough. My response was a totally defensive, “WE ARE ALL SET!”

    I think public school is great if the parents are involved. I fully plan to send my kids to public school, BUT, I also plan to work with them to make sure they get a supplemental education for anything the schools are missing. For you, that might be religious ed. Hell, Ali, even if you hired a private tutor to sit with your kids for two hours a flipping DAY, it’d still be less than $45K.

    As for you, Linda, oh man, you make so many assumptions with your last paragraph, I don’t even know what to say. You should take credit for how self-reliant your kids are, but don’t assume it’s simply because you worked. My mom stayed home, and I had a job from the second I was legally allowed to, I did my own laundry, etc. It was her parenting, not her working status.

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    Comment by jonniker on March 28, 2011
  6. Also, Ali, ditto what you said about public school being real life. If I had to guess, I’d say college is closer to a private school education than a public one, in terms of experience.

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    Comment by jonniker on March 28, 2011
  7. Dilemma, for sure.

    I went to private Catholic all-girls school, and my husband went to public. Ultimately, there was no difference between our education. My only regret was that my high school wasn’t co-ed. THAT would’ve made going into engineering, where 90% of the student population was male, SO much easier… and less awkward. (I had a very strict and sheltered upbringing.)

    BTW, my kids take swim classes at our local Jewish Community Campus, and we love it. Such a warm, loving, welcoming community. And I like that my kids have the opportunity to learn a bit about the Jewish culture.

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    Comment by Nenette on March 28, 2011
  8. I know that we talked about it when I was at your house last week and it really is a hard one.

    I have no advice, but I know that you and Gav will figure it out. :)

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    Comment by Angella on March 28, 2011
  9. Is there a fine balance? Like sending your children to the Jewish day school for primary, and then when they go to high school switch them to public? At least that way they have the basis of Hebrew, knowledge of the Jewish faith and lifelong friends (I know most of my friends are from my amazing primary school though we were all separated after).

    I also know that there are public high school that are geared towards drama and the arts. I grew up in Ottawa, Ontario where my sister went to a great Drama high school. Something to consider for your Emily?

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    Comment by A. on March 28, 2011
  10. Preparing for your own retirement is SO SO important. My personal opinion is that private elementary school doesn’t make a lot of sense. Most ES are pretty decent, and you can supplement at home if you are really worried about certain topics (i.e. not enough creative writing, or math, or whatever). HS is where things really start to split in terms of education level for private vs. public. How about you save the money now, then send them to private for HS?

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    Comment by Tia on March 28, 2011
  11. That’s true Tia. Most of my family members that went to Catholic High School, when to public elementary school. But that said, I think it must be harder to switch schools at the high school age? Earlier is better? I don’t know. Like I said I was a teacher, so I will always vote for public school no matter who I am talking to.

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    Comment by Tammi Marie on March 28, 2011
  12. Good luck with your decision whatever it may be. The parental guilt is strong no matter what you do.

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    Comment by Corey on March 28, 2011
  13. Wow that’s tough. My son was in Catholic School before we moved him to his multi-sensory, non-denominational school-he has issues. RE once a week just isn’t the same as being in the Catholic School system.

    And like you, we have not been on vacation, don’t have any plans to take him to Disney World and don’t drive really great cars because it is crazy expensive (not nearly as crazy expensive as yours but none-the-less crazy expensive).

    My hope is that my son will be able to return to Catholic School though I don’t foresee that happening in the immediate future.

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    Comment by M&Co. on March 28, 2011
  14. It’s going to be a hard decision either way, and I wish you the best of luck with it.
    Whatever you decide, it will be what you think is best for your kids, now and in the long run.
    jonniker’s advice about public school plus a tutor for anything that seems lacking sounds like a good idea.. definitely less than you’re paying for school now. Holy crap.

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    Comment by Jessica on March 28, 2011
  15. All I could think of reading this was OMG I AM HAVING THE SAME CRISIS HERE. Only it’s Catholic school.

    Less Hebrew, more fried fish.

    Everytime we make our “decision” I question it.

    I don’t know what to do, but I want to keep having this conversation with you, because maybe one of us, at some point, will get some insight here.

    Love you!

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    Comment by Brittany on March 28, 2011
  16. What if they stick with Jewish school until high school and then switch to public school? I realize that does not solve the immediate financial problem but it does avoid high school tuition.

    As you said, it’s important to you that they be involved in their heritage and culture and it will be tough to learn Hewbrew outside of Jewish school, am I right?

    All the same, $45 000 a year? Wow.

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    Comment by Heather on March 28, 2011
  17. I would like to point out that I paid more my college education. That being said, I can understand wanting the most for your child and feeling that their education is an investment. THAT being said, I* definitely* empathize with wanting to have a little more financial security.

    I guess what I’m really saying is that I have nothing helpful to say.

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    Comment by MonsteRawr on March 28, 2011
  18. I don’t usually comment, but I just wanted to add my 2 cents to this topic. I don’t have children yet, but I did grow up going to public school my entire life. And I’ll admit that there were times that I felt inferior to my peers who did go to private school because it seemed like they received a better education. However, the one thing I remember and love about my childhood were all the family trips I took around the world with my parents every single summer. Traveling is an invaluable experience and a wonderful learning opportunity. To read about the history of the Great Wall of China is one thing, but to actually climb it? It’s something that sticks in your memory forever.

    And I guess I didn’t end up being that far behind my peers who went to private school. I graduated from a great university and I’m currently in medical school.

    I think that whatever you decide to do, your kids will be just fine. =)

    [Reply]

    Comment by sarah on March 28, 2011
  19. Hi Ali,
    I too am a rare commenter, but just wanted to add my thoughts to this discussion.

    I went to private school kindergarten through college, but the cost of grade school was about a third of what you’re paying for one child and high school about two thirds. College was about double, but it’s college and that included room and board.

    Anyway, I agree with what another commenter said about maybe splitting the kids’ time. If I was their parent, I would like the idea of maybe pulling them out in 5th grade when they’ve got down what you want them to know which it sounds like they do when Emily and Josh speak Hebrew fluently.

    They could start middle school off in a public school setting when they’re still young enough to make new friends and what not.

    Either way, $15,000 is absolutely absurd for one child that young.

    There’s my two cents, best of luck in your decision making process.

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    Comment by Dianna on March 28, 2011
  20. I guess you could move to Mtl… They subsize the schools, right? What?!? You think I’m crazy?

    Hair is pretty :)

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    Comment by Heather on March 28, 2011
  21. I completely get where you’re coming from. I went to Day School until Grade 8. All three of my kids went through till Grade 1, but we just couldn’t swing Day School, and it broke my heart, and still does. Its an excellent education and creates a strong connection to their heritage. I have opinions on whether there should be subsidies for all religions not just one, so that all kids have the opportunity to attend. (That was politically correct, no?). As well, my kids have never been to Disney and we lack in disposable income. We spend on sleep over camp which I’d 1/2 of private school, yet still exorbitant.

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    Comment by mara (@chickymara) on March 28, 2011
  22. I am Jewish and my kids are in public school, which is fine with me, but please don’t even get me started on the fact that Catholic school here is free, but you are paying through the nose to give your kids a religious education. Makes my blood boil.

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    Comment by karengreeners on March 28, 2011
  23. You definitely have a dilemma on your hands. I do teach in the public sector north of Toronto. I have worked with people who either teach at some sort of private schools or had children who went to private schools. Your points about heritage are quite true and valuable. I also agree that your children will transition from high school to college/university with relative ease because the settings are very similar. And…I’m betting that at your children’s school they probably have smaller class sizes or at the very least they are smaller than the provincial average. Damn…I’m not really helping my job, am I?! :) The benefits of a public education…an understanding and experiencing of very diverse backgrounds (most of the kids I teach could never afford a private school…they can barely afford breakfast/lunch. A school with a supportive community can be an amazing place to learn.
    You mention all the things you can’t afford to do…would your children’s life me made better if they got to do the activities you mention?
    In the end it’s what’s best for your children (and you…you are funding this after all).
    Good luck with your decision.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Amanda on March 28, 2011
  24. I… Wow.

    We LIVE on $45k a year. Like, we pay the mortgage, the bills and then can’t afford a car. Period.

    I wish my kids could go to a private school, but there is absolutely no way. We can’t even afford daycare.

    Having said that, my opinion lies on the “What’s more important to you?” line. It’s YOUR disposable income, and they’re your children; you are ultimately responsible for providing them with life skills and helping them grow up to adulthood successfully. It’s your choice to make.

    That’s what I think.

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    Comment by Alicia on March 28, 2011
  25. Ali – that’s a heck of a lot of money. My experience: I went to public school my whole life. I grew up in a lower middle class/immigrant/working class suburb west of Toronto. It never hurt me at all – I have a Masters degree, finished 3rd in the Toronto region at the end of high school and got a scholarship to U of T. Of course, the culture/religion thing did not play a role in my education – but I never felt deprived. In Australia, private schools are subsidised by the government so an equivalent school to your kids’ one would be about half that price. Having said that, my boys went to Catholic private school for 3 years (we’re not Catholic though) and the quality of education in relation to the 3 R’s was awful and we paid a lot of $$$ for that. We pulled them out and they now go to the local public school which is brilliant and Miranda has started her formal education there as well. Why is it brilliant? Because the parents pitch in and contribute on a regular basis. We could now easily afford to privately educate all of our kids through the end of high school but choose not to. I want them to have a varied exposure to different cultures, religions and socio economic deomographics. Miranda will be going to a private girls’ school in Grade 5 – only becuase it has a specialised ballet and music program. Yes, we do pay for extra’s outside to compensate i.e. tennis, piano, ballet, swimming but it’s worth it in the end for us. Just my 2 cents – good luck!!! P.S. Where is Charna moving to in Australia?

    [Reply]

    Comment by Heidi on March 28, 2011
  26. I just wanted to add that my boys will be going to the local (excellent) public high school which has a specialised tennis and swimming program. In my opinion, boys do better in co-ed schools as most of the private schools for boys are single sex here. I’ve also talked to a few teachers in the private system who say that a child will do just as well anywhere as long the parental support is there and the family is involved in the school. I live in a wealthy, upper middle class neighbourhood where, OMG, there is lots of chit chat about private schools and where are we going to send our kids, etc. To which I respond: to the LOCAL high school. Data in Perth has indicated that the public high schools rate just as highly academically as the private schools in my area without the expensive price tag. However, in Toronto, this might be very different. I know that when I went to university, the kids from private schools (I did engineering)really struggled socially and academically – but that might have been more due to the fact that they went to single sex schools. Anyway, it is a really hard one to get your head around. :(

    [Reply]

    Comment by Heidi on March 28, 2011
  27. Ali .. I can sympathize with your dilemna, it’s a tough call especially with 3 children. I read through the comments and actually want to re-iterate what the other Sarah wrote. I think that if you are tapped and are not really able to travel at all with your kids while they are young that would be too bad. I also remember all of our important trips as children and how much they taught me and how they brought me closer to my family and culture. I guess there are others ways besides Jewish day school to feed your children with the Jewish culture and upbringing that can allow you to budget vacation etc. I think it’s admirable of you that you are sacrificing things to put your kids into a school that you value and that you feel is best for them but it’s good to look into alternatives too. You may be surprised that you can have what you want for them AND what you need for youself! Good luck with whatever you choose to do.

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    Comment by Sarah on March 29, 2011
  28. Have you gone and checked out your local public school? I think a lot of it depends on the individual school and if you just recently moved and you aren’t planning to move again soon they will likely have to go to the school in your area. Check it out. You may be surprised and your decision would be made based on knowledge and not just assumptions of what the public school is like. I would also agree with other folks that the switch now would be easier- much easier- than in high school. As you and your husband both seem to be super involved I’m sure you could also continue to provide them with experiences to enrich their heritage even if they went to public school. As it is now I’m sure you don’t leave it up to their day school to simply provide that. Good luck with your decision-making.

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    Comment by Steph on March 29, 2011
  29. I’m re-reading again some of these responses. I’m kindof of interested in what people have to say as I’ll be in the same dilemna but for highschool having the choice to send my son to french school (private) or english public. But Ali, your point is not just that it is private school it’s that it’s jewish day school, right? So .. it’s not public vs. private it’s really because of the benefit of getting a ‘jewish’ cultured education. I think some of the responses are weighing public vs. private but if I understand what you are saying it’s not just those two choices, you are in the private school ‘because’ of what is offers your children for the jewish culture. In my area there are 2 highschools to choose from that are english, and public. And one to choose from that is french .. but private. So, in order for me to continue my son in french education in highschool I would need to pay for it in private school. Are there public jewish schools that your kids can even go to in T.O?

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    Comment by Sarah on March 29, 2011
  30. YES! Exactly!
    It’s not a public vs. private school debate/decision.

    It’s a Jewish school vs. not jewish school decision.

    I am a huge fan of public school education. and no matter what school your child is in, you may need to supplement a little or a lot at home. in fact, my children have about 24 kids in their classes…so it’s not like they will be shocked by a large public school class etc.

    So, no, public jewish schools do not exist…unfortunately, because I’d be first in line for that11

    [Reply]

    Comment by ali on March 29, 2011
  31. There’s a lot that isn’t mentioned. Someone mentioned that they LIVE on that much money. The cost of living in the Greater Toronto Area is very high, and tuition is no different.

    As someone who also sends her kids to Jewish Day School in Toronto (albeit a different school) I would say that there is a lot more to it. There’s the question of Jewish education or not Jewish education, as you said. I am a huge proponent (and a product of) the public school system. I chose to send my children to day school for a variety of reasons – nurturing, the ability to ask extra things of the teachers and know that they will comply (I can’t ask that of public school teachers!), a secure environment, and a completely different “feel” to school.

    I was also a teacher in the day school system for a long time, and I also know that the teachers are accustomed to different expectations.

    It’s a really hard choice. We are taking it year by year, and will probably move to public or alternate schools for high school.

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    Comment by Naomi on March 29, 2011
  32. I went to private school all of my life and my parents could never afford to buy a house since there were two of us in yeshiva.
    Personally, I loved my upbringing in school- as you probably have. I wouldnt change it in the world. But if i were living in new york right now, I would seriously consider public because of the pricing.
    I understand, very hard dilemma but I am sure whatever decision you make will be right for you.
    I think elementary school yeshiva and high school public is a wonderful option- if you can do it.

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    Comment by Gemini-Girl on March 30, 2011
  33. I don’t think there is a right or wrong decision in general, but hopefully there is a “better” decision for your family that you can feel good about choosing. And by better I mean right for you, not different from what you have now.
    I think either way, your kids will be great, but that is because of the support and value of education you and your husband give them. I can’t speak to a religious education as I went to a public non-religious school, but I do know that value in education is a personal thing. Some parents value high college entrance rates and low drop out rates, some value diversity of courses available, and there are many other things to consider. You provide so much for your children, and I only hope to be able to provide as much for mine (and I am not speaking financially, but supportively). I hope you feel at peace with whatever decision you make.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Christina on March 30, 2011
  34. When my oldest was in kindergarten, we had her enrolled in a private school in Los Angeles. I was convinced it was the only way. Then we moved in the summer before she started first grade and I had no job and well…she (and her sister) go to public school. A great choice school. It’s still public, but with a better program. The truth is, if we lived in LA still, they’d be in private school..and I’d eat sushi all the time, but that’s a whole other story. For me, it’s not about being a brat or a snot or any other name I was called, it was me wanting my kids to get the best education possible. At that time and if we’d stayed in LA I could have afforded private school. It just would have limited everything else, as I’m sure it does for you.

    That being said, I went to private school my entire school career. My mom never owned a house until we graduated. We moved rentals every two years at least. We never went on vacations. I’m not really sure it was worth it.

    Jewish Day School is amazing. Your kids will get a great education. However, is that why you are doing it? Do you think maybe they’d do well in public school, with say Hebrew lessons on the side?

    I don’t envy your choice. I remember it and it pained me to do what I did.

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    Comment by Issa on March 31, 2011
  35. @Linda I have to disagree. I went to private school from pre-school through HS. I had no problem in college. I went to a major university even.

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    Comment by Issa on March 31, 2011
  36. Random…sorry for the three comments Ali…I find it kinda cool that your Jewish Day School tuition is the same that my cousin is paying in LA. I’d of thought it would be different depending on area.

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    Comment by Issa on March 31, 2011
  37. My son is about to start Kindergarten and I have been struggling with whether to send him to a private school or not. Like you, we can afford it (barely), but it’s a trade off.

    I’d like him to go to Hebrew school too, but that may be an after school program (similar to what I did growing up in Boston).

    [Reply]

    Comment by Erica on April 2, 2011
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