My husband had lunch with his mother the other day and when he came home, I could tell he wanted to talk to me about something. It turns out that his mom wants to pay for all four of her grandkids to go to the Catholic private high school that she, her siblings (all 6 of them), her husband, Earl Grey, and his sister attended. Now, Girl Grey is the oldest of the grandkids at nine years old (4th grade), so it's still a while before she's in high school, and then there is a five year gap between her and Baby Grey, followed by a 2 school-year gap until their twin cousins. However, MIL needs to start seriously planning if we are to go along with this.
Now, if I could afford to send GG to private school, it would not be to the Pope HS (not really it's name). We have one outstanding private school that rivals the top private schools in the DC area and while not quite as expensive, still very expensive. For example, Georgetown Prep in the DC area is $30K this next year and our premier private school is just over $20K/year. Our next best private school is about $2K less. Pope HS costs $12K this year (less than I paid for day care in MD!!) Cost does not necessarily imply quality, and I'm well-aware of that. That is not what this is about. Among private schools where I live, I'd say that academically, Pope is probably the 3rd or 4th best and is perhaps the best parochial school in the city.
Now, it may be that we could possibly swing tuition for private school for GG, but over the last year, I pretty much decided that it's probably not worth it. That was further solidified when I learned that the public HS I attended is becoming an International Baccalaureate school next school year. That school was already pretty good and this will be an awesome program that I think will complement GG tremendously. It is probably a lottery to get in since it is out of district (unless that have actual admission criteria, but since it's a public school, I don't think they can do that). However, my parents still live in district, so we could probably use their address for her to go.
That leaves middle school to contend with. I'm not excited about GG going to any public middle school--I think they are a wasteland, but at least we live in district for what is probably the best public MS in the district.
When we first moved back here, Earl Grey told me he wouldn't mind GG going to Pope HS, but I said no way. He had a good experience there and he's super smart and ended up being extremely successful, so obviously the school didn't hold him back any. While I don't think that school is any worse than the public highs schools, I certainly never thought it was better (well, I'm sure it's better than some, but it's not better than where I went). I was never impressed by the students coming out of there, was never impressed by their athletics (except soccer) or fine arts programs. In the public schools, the fine arts programs are much bigger and the kids have more opportunities for performing, and obviously have bigger sports programs. The IB school has always had a very strong music program outstanding choirs, and an involved theatre group, which at least at this point is what GG is interested in. My last two years in HS, my main group of friends consisted of a bunch of honors kids (*pushes up glasses*) who excelled at school and extra-curriculars and we've all gone on to be rather successful. My husband was in the chess club and I'm sure he was friends with the same types and I'm sure they've all gone on to be successful.
EG argues two things: (1) While Pope HS may not be better than IB school, it afforded the sense of community that private schools offer and that are harder to exist in a public school (i.e., network). (2) The mere fact that it is a private school and isn't cheap, as well as the fact that private schools can kick out troublesome kids, means that the student population is more selective.
Now, no one wants her kids in a class full of disruptive kids who don't give a shit but at the same time, the "eliteness" of private schools kind of bothers me. I get the benefits of the sense of community. I have to say, I also have a BIG issue with the idea of supporting the Catholic church. I suppose the religion that I most identify with, culturally, is Catholicism, but I am certainly not a Catholic (I'm an atheist). I have major issues with the church and their stances on things and I do not like the idea of supporting them financially nor do I like the idea of having my daughter required to attend mass and religion classes. I know she'll actually get to study some interesting world religions, but I don't know what the bias, if any, there is in such classes and I don't want her mind being poisoned. Maybe it won't be an issue for her because she is my child and I am raising her with a strong sense of self including making decisions based on her own logic. My husband might be atheist or agnostic (not quite sure exactly where he stands) despite his attendance at Catholic schools. He's also a scientist and clearly a free-thinker.
While the things I've mentioned about private school bother me, if money were not an object, I'd want GG to go to our premier one. It's a beautiful campus and the kids have amazing opportunities. I am not excited about her going to Pope and I think that money could be better spent, like for college. It's not my money, but we'd inevitably have to pay for all of the extras: fees, books, etc., etc. I don't feel like I could ask MIL to set aside that money for college or the other private school, though it would certainly be appreciated (and maybe she'd do it without us asking).
What would you do? Would you let your MIL pay for private school? What would be your concerns or your exaltations about it?