I Send My Kids to Private School, and I Am Not a Bad Person

If you are a parent of school-age children, and/or read a certain type of on-line publication, you probably saw the article in Slate headlined “If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are A Bad Person”.

I saw it on Slate, which I regularly read as much for the articles as for the comments (and when it comes to Dear Prudie, almost exclusively for the comments), and I saw it in my Twitter timeline several times. Some people agreed with the argument, which boils down to “everyone should send their children to public schools so public education will improve”, if not the sentiment. And some people don’t agree with the argument for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the way the author of the piece framed it as a judgmental manifesto with a data set of one (herself).

I’ve made my argument for why I send my children to a private, Catholic school already here. Ironically, one of the reasons I send my children to private school (and will unless I can’t afford it) is because it’s all I know. The same way Allison Benedikt, the author of the Slate article, got only exposure to public schooling, Catholic education is the only kind of education I got. I found it to be a rich and rewarding experience, one that I hope the Catholic school the girls attend (and that M will eventually attend) will provide for my kids. When it comes to high school, even moreso.

And, yes, the whole “you are a bad person” aside, I couldn’t find a real reason for Benedikt’s assertions that the only way to assuage liberal guilt if you are a liberal-leaning parent is to participate in the public school system. For the record, I have no guilt about choosing to send my kids to Catholic school. Not a pang.

Benedikt’s proof that public education is just fine is that she went to public school, a mediocre one at best — she asserts she had one book that she *had* to read in four years of school — and she’s just fine. She’s employed full-time, at a job she likes; she’s married and has three children (4 years old and under).

Her argument for sending kids to public school is that only by sending kids to public school will public education improve. That with parental involvement, public education will be held accountable to be the best it can be for our children. That with more kids will come more money, more voices for the betterment of the programs, and in three or four generations, we will finally be caught up, and all schools will be excellent and turn out good students.

She may have a point. I don’t know. Again, she doesn’t have anything to back up her assertion.

Now, the commenters on my little post had good points as to why they would or would not choose Catholic school. And again, we only are providing anecdotes. The commenters on the Slate piece ran the gamut to making real arguments for sending kids to public schools, arguments against, and dismissing Benedikt out of hand while also calling her names. The usual comment section fare. The comment section is at 5000+ comments and climbing, so Benedikt has done her job well, in this case, generating a clickbait article so advertisers at Slate get a lot of eyeballs on their ads.

Well, done, Allison. Kudos.

I think — and I am again, basing this on anecdotal evidence — that if liberal-leaning parents want to send their kids to public school, what actually happens is that they go out to find the best schools around where they have chosen to live and work. They do research to see the success rate of the school districts; they visit the schools and meet the teachers, and ask a lot of questions. They don’t passively send their kids to school wherever they happen to live (unless they live in a pretty good district already).

Then they move.

Would Benedikt assert that parents can’t relocate to send their kids to a certain public school? Do you have to stay put after you have kids, and use the public education system wherever you end up? Do you have to live within a certain mile radius of where you work, and send your kids to *that* public school?

If she’s going to declare me a bad person because, with adequate public schools in my area, I choose to send my kids to a private Catholic school, then shouldn’t parents that move to send their kids to the best public schools also be declared bad people? If the goal is to improve bad schools, shouldn’t good liberal parents send their smart kids to poor schools, get really involved, and improve the schools that way?

And what about conservative parents? Are they off the hook because they don’t care about public schooling anyway? And what about those who choose to homeschool, for religious (conservative) or secular (liberal) reasons?

The key to our kids getting a good education absolutely starts in the home. If you are an involved parent, regardless of how you choose to educate your children, whether you send them to pre-school, kindergarten, or start them in first grade, public or private, it’s not going to be a detriment to them.

But if you are an involved parent, your kid automatically has a leg up on children with parents who — for reasons from financial to educational — aren’t involved. A single mother with more than one child has a lot more on her plate than I do. I can afford to be involved, because I only have to work one job, and have a parenting partnership with my husband, and we have the means to outsource some things (i.e. laundry, hire the occasional babysitter, use a nanny in the summer). Do *those* things make me a bad person too?

I think a good education is the right of every person. I think public schools do need to improve — and the worst schools need to improve the most. I don’t know what the answer to improving public education.

But declaring that everyone should send their kids to public school because it’s the moral thing to do — that’s not the argument to make, in my opinion.

Did you read the Slate article? What did you think?

Random Thoughts: The Rolling Right Along Edition

1. Although I have managed not to panic outright this week (as my father would say, “Never panic. It’s so unattractive.”), apparently insomnia is going to be my torture.

Had a touch Sunday night, couldn’t sleep for about an hour.

Last night (this morning?) was a doozy though. Up from 2:30 to nearly 5 a.m. To add insult to injury, just as I was finally falling back to sleep, after watching the horrible ending of The Dark Half — I’m guessing the whole movie was terrible, not just the ending; I like Timothy Hutton a lot, but that movie was a bad career choice. And don’t get me started on Stephen King book adaptations…

Where was I?

Right, falling back to sleep finally at 5 a.m. when Dan started to snore again. Then to heap insult upon insult to injury: his alarm went off at 6 a.m.


2. I have been able to cobble together lunches and dinners despite not shopping in the recent past. I even put together a picnic dinner for this evening, which is Flora’s first soccer practice if the weather improves. Hummus, carrot sticks, celery with peanut butter, cheese, and apples. I may have to pick up some crackers I suppose.

If practice gets canceled, we’re having a picnic in the living room.

3. The routine is starting to take, I think. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself here. Last night went pretty smoothly (note: it was not a bath night). The school after care program has instituted a half-hour homework period for the kids. I told Flora to use the time! That will be a big time saver in the evenings.

Last night, TV went off at about 7:50. While I put M to bed, the girls came upstairs, put on their pajamas, brushed their teeth, and quietly occupied themselves in their room. Didn’t ask for another show. Didn’t ask for another snack. Just waited until I got M settled, then we read the next two chapters of the book we’re on.

They were asleep by 9:30, and up this morning by about 6:45.

I am hopeful.

Except for that damn insomnia.

4. Kate’s having little dramas, though. Sadness, bad dreams, spates of crying. I am being patient and trying to help her, listen to her, empathize. Last night was especially notable. She got very sad right before dinner.

As we were coming in the door for the evening, she said, “Did you ever have a dream? And then thought all day about the dream, and think you were going to dream the same thing again in the night?”

I said, “You had a bad dream last night?”
She nodded.
“And you’re afraid you’re going to dream about it again tonight?”
Another nod.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“It was too hard to describe.”
“Okay. But if you want to talk about it, I can listen.”
“It’s just that everyone was dead except me.”

Oh, this kid. Breaking my heart.

“Sweetie, are you feeling lonely? Are you afraid of being left alone?”
Nodding and tears this time.

“Do you feel worried about going to school?”
She shook her head no.
“Do you feel lonely at school?”
Another no.
“Do you feel lonely at night?”
Nodding yes.
“Okay. So we have to figure out a way to help you feel less lonely at night.”
“Yes. Okay.”

Then later that night, I tucked her and Flora in, and left the room to get M resettled (M is sleeping in the big bed in our room — not in his crib, and that is another story for another day), and she burst into sobs! Came into M’s room and everything. She was so distraught.

Maybe some of it is the change in schedule, the change in routine. Instead of the nanny and her siblings and cousins around all the time, she’s *is* alone, in a new classroom. She has had very good days at school, and hasn’t complained of a thing, even when asked. She’s not in a classroom with her “frenemy” from last year, although she sees her some evenings in after care. Maybe she’s a little more tired, and it’s darker sooner, and change, man. Change is hard!

I got her calmed down last night with some deep breaths. I’ve started doing a meditation with her at night too — I don’t know if I can call it guided meditation or anything fancy like that. I have her picture a big, strong tree, and I describe the bark, and the leaves, and the light in the leaves. We’ve done it about three times, and it does seem to calm her.

5. I am using this weekend to regroup (ha! as if I’m grouped), make a weekly meal plan, look into freezer meals (thanks to @TwinMamaTeb for the tip), practice our routines a little more. Especially yoga. Who knew I would like yoga? I did not.

6. In another attempt to help Kate, I put a note in her lunch for today. I hope it cheers her up, and reminds her that she is always on my mind, and never alone.

What do you do when you or your kids are feeling lonely?

Back to School: I Have Stress Edition

It’s the first week of full-time school for Kate and Flora. It’s a return to the school year schedule, of which I am not fond. Michael is in his daycare full time for the first time since the beginning of June.

I have no meal plan for this week.
I am still waiting for a couple of uniform pieces for Flora to come in.
And I am not looking forward to the night time sprint to bed.

Dan and I discussed the possibilities of him working until 9 p.m. three nights a week so that he can be home by 6-6:30 p.m. one night a week and by 7-7:30 p.m. another night a week. (He’s still alternating working Saturdays, which seems to be good for him.) I am hoping we can do this.

I just found out that Flora has soccer practice twice a week, Monday and Friday, and a game each weekend starting September 7.

I’m going to have to make friends with another soccer parent FAST. I see much carpooling in Flora’s future.

I signed Kate up for pep squad this year, too. No idea what that entails. Plus, Kate wants to play violin, just like her big sister.

I feel like I shouldn’t be this stressed out about this. Other parents do this, right? Other working parents of multiple kids, yeah? I mean, I feel like I’m having a measure of PTSD here (not to minimize actual people with actual serious PTSD).

But I’m dreading this year.
I’m dreading all this running around. And it’s not as if Flora and Kate are doing six or seven activities each. We said one sport, one instrument (if that).

And here was are. Each has one sport, and one instrument. Plus, homework. Plus I have to feed them. And, theoretically bathe them, and make sure they get enough sleep. And, you know, there’s that Michael kid running around too.


And then I sit here wondering: when exactly did I bite off more than I could chew? And how do I get a handle on that without losing my job or letting my kids sit around and do nothing? There’s gotta be a middle ground around here somewhere.

I sure am having a hard time finding it.

And I don’t really want to let these girls down. (Not to mention my sweet boy.)

Back to School: The Bedtime Routine Edition

On Sunday, I announced at the dinner table that the New Bedtime Order was being implemented, starting that night.

M should be in bed by 8 p.m.

The girls should be in bed by 8:30 p.m. at the absolute latest. The hall light will not be left on; the bathroom light will be. If I come upstairs to find them playing with any toys or stuffed animals, I am taking them away for a week. After 9 p.m. they are not to come downstairs (“Unless,” Dan added, “you are bleeding, on fire, or have a broken bone”).

I also decided that we would be taking 15 to 30 minutes before bedtime to unwind and make bedtime calm and relaxing. The thundering around, and up and down the stairs was going to end.

In an attempt to help my girls relax and get ready to actually *sleep* — not just go to bed — I decided last night that we would try some yoga.

Kate was all over this decision.

Flora was adamantly against this decision.

Dan thought it was a good idea, and tried to persuade Flora to try it.

Flora found this incredibly upsetting.

While Flora cried on the couch, Kate and I did yoga for about 10 minutes.

Kate is good at yoga.

Ten minutes later, I sent Kate and Dan upstairs, and sat down to talk to my very distraught daughter.

She doesn’t like yoga. She doesn’t want to do yoga. She’s upset that Dan thinks yoga is a good idea, because that means he likes Kate better (8-year-old logic). Why couldn’t she pick the thing for us to do that would be relaxing?

“Well,” I said, “what do you think we can do that would be relaxing?”

“What about a board game?”

I considered this. “I’m not sure a board game right before bedtime is a good idea,” I said. “What if we get excited about winning or upset about losing? That doesn’t sound relaxing. I think a board game after dinner on Friday or Saturday is a good idea, though!”

Flora thought some more. “Reading?”

“I find reading relaxing,” I said. “I would like us to all read together. Maybe we can pick a good chapter book to start reading. I’ll read out loud to you and Kate.”


“I would like to keep doing yoga,” I said. “So how about one night, we’ll read together, and the other night we’ll do yoga. If you don’t want to do yoga, then maybe you can just sit and watch, or take deep breaths, or read a book on your own.”


So, we’ll see how this goes.


Dan doesn’t think reading is relaxing. He doesn’t understand my attachment to it, and he doesn’t understand Flora’s attachment to it. And I don’t know how to explain it to him.

What we find relaxing is subjective, I suppose. Reading totally unplugs me from the day. I need that at the end of the night. I think I’m going to find doing yoga with Kate relaxing, too. I do need my hip to start cooperating though, but that’s a different story.

I will have to keep an eye on how much Flora reads once she’s in bed. She likes to read until she falls asleep. I haven’t discouraged that.

We were very lax about bedtime this summer. I tried to institute the “no downstairs after 9 p.m.” to no avail. But this routine is something I have to stick with. My girls are learning bad habits; they are certainly teaching M bad habits. It’s all got to be nipped in the bud.

I am hoping that as night falls earlier, and we get into a relaxation routine, and bedtime becomes a time for quiet and peace, it will be easier for my children to go to sleep.

I’m hoping by October, the relaxing is ingrained enough that we won’t need constant reminding.

Again, we’ll see.

Are you making any major changes to routines as we head into the school year?

Meatless Monday: All the Fresh Produce

I struggle to use all my CSA vegetables, and this is even with splitting my share with my sister-in-law.

But I sure made an honest attempt to use them all this past weekend.

Cucumbers in Sour Cream
Adapted from my CSA newsletter

Three cucumbers, two peeled, one unpeeled, sliced very thin
Scallion, sliced
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp mustard

Put the cucumbers in a bowl, and sprinkle with salt (this removes the bitterness of the skin). Let sit for 3 minutes.

Mix the sour cream, vinegar, sugar, and mustard together. Pour over cucumbers, and serve.

This makes a fabulous lunch the next day when mixed with leftover cous cous.


Eggplant and Tomato Cheese Strata
I pretty much made this up

One eggplant, peeled and sliced
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 to 8 tomatoes (depends on size; I used roma tomatoes, so I needed about 8), sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese
Bread crumbs

Lay the eggplant slices on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Sprinkle both sides with salt; let sit about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375. Spray the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish with non-stick spray.

Rinse eggplant, then layer on bottom of casserole dish. Cover with 1 cup of mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle garlic on top, then ground pepper to taste. Next, layer tomatoes, the other cup of mozzarella cheese, grated parmesan and bread crumbs. (I would estimate I used about 2-3 tablespoons of the parmesan and bread crumbs.)

Cover with foil, and bake for 30 minutes.


I also made apple crisp that was ridiculously good. I attribute it to the little tart apples from my CSA, but there was quite a bit of brown sugar and butter in the recipe. Plus vanilla.

What are you making with your summer produce?

…With Liberty and Justice for All

NPR has been doing a series on the March on Washington, which took place 50 years ago this month. It’s a fascinating look at a powerful movement in our country, and, I think, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision regarding the Voters Rights Act, extremely relevant.

The 1963 March on Washington (officially the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and also called The Great March on Washington) was one of the largest political rallies for human rights in the United States. It’s where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his unforgettable “I Have a Dream” speech. According to Wikipedia, the March on Washington is widely credited with helping to pass the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965).

I suggest you listen to some of the stories on NPR. They’re very powerful.

I was especially struck yesterday by the story of Bayard Rustin, who is credited with organizing the march. He’s posthumously receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom this year. Two things about Rustin: he was black, and he was gay. For awhile he was discredited in the Civil Rights movement for the latter fact.

You should go listen to the story if you haven’t already.

This particular story caught my attention because earlier this week, a black feminist on Twitter started a hashtag: #Solidarityisforwhitewomen. As I read through the tweets, I was mystified by what I was seeing. Namely, the idea that mainstream feminism is racist.

Now, I’m not going to argue that that’s not true. If white women feminists are excluding other feminists of color, or races, or orientations, then I’ll be the first to say they are doing it wrong.

I guess I just want to say: I don’t think that solidarity is for white women only. I’ve been wanting to write about this, and unsure what to say. Fortunately, this woman said it for me, much better. To quote a part of her piece: “We cannot succeed… if we do it divided. There is a reality where oppression is so great that it creates tunnel vision to the causes of others.” Read the whole post.

So a black man who is gay has to fight for black rights before he can fight for gay rights. And maybe the movement for gay rights in this country has made other orientations feel even more marginalized. And maybe feminists have marginalized women of color. This whole brouhaha was started when a writer I’d never heard of decided to “quit the Internet”. In his rise as a male, white, feminist writer, he apparently was a ruthless asshole. (It’s kind of fascinating in the way a train wreck is.)

Marginalizing one group (or more than one group) to fight for equal rights doesn’t make sense. Advocating for equal rights should mean advocating for human rights regardless of sex, orientation, color, race, or religion. I suppose I sound naive or idealistic. And, again, it’s not being *blind* to those things. It is seeing those things clearly, and not caring. It’s understanding that even though people are different — and I think it’s pretty awesome that people are different — we should not treat them differently.

Why I Love Being a Parent

I finally figured it out. I attribute my epiphany this past weekend to two things: a great vacation (can’t believe it was more than a week ago) and Neil Gaiman.

Our family vacation was the best family vacation we’ve been on since we started vacationing with kids eight years ago. Dan and I each got time to ourselves, as well as time as a couple; Flora and Kate were independent enough to not need much hovering; Michael, too, was easy-going and fairly cooperative about bedtimes (and napping every other day).

It was actually relaxing and fun, a return to the way vacations ought to be, but aren’t when kids are very young. Young kids — babies and toddlers — are hard work, and going on vacation with them is harder because you’re doing all the stuff you have to do to take care of your kids, only in an unfamiliar space.

We hiked and swam as a family; Dan went white water rafting and played paint ball; I spent an afternoon at a spa; Dan and I had a nice dinner with my generation of the clan on Wednesday. The kids were mostly well-behaved and enjoyed the stuff we were doing. Of course, they also had very kid-like moments, and got whiny a couple of times, but overall, they were great.

And we came home Thursday to re-calibrate to normal life. I was home until Monday, so we did some errand running and some other fun stuff (dinner and swimming with friends, later nights, a trip to the National Aviary).

Photo by Flora

So that was vacation. And, I repeat, it was FUN. Fun as a family.

Now, onto Gaiman. Neil Gaiman is the author of several books and graphic novels, and he writes for children, young adults, and adults. I would like to own everything he’s had a hand in — he should have a place on my bookshelves right alongside Stephen King and Margaret Atwood.

He’s got a new book out, and has been giving interviews, two of which I have heard. In the most recent one, he was talking about his graphic novel Coraline (which is also a movie), and he said the thing that contributed to my weekend epiphany.

(Paraphrasing like crazy here:) For children, sez Gaiman, Coraline is an adventure story. It’s the story of secret places, a new mother, a talking cat. For adults, Coraline is the story of a child in danger.

I read the graphic novel, and my children saw the movie. My girls *loved* the movie, which surprised me, because I thought the graphic novel was pretty scary. But then I heard Gaiman’s take on it, and was like, “Oh. Of course.”

And that leads me to why I love being a parent (finally):

Because through my kids, I constantly get a separate and interesting point of view. My kids have taught me so much about our world. They are constant discoverers, and they see things completely differently than I do, and that is AWESOME. (I mean, yeah, sometimes it makes me nuts, because oh the whinging that can happen when my kids have a different POV.)

Kate’s insights constantly surprise and usually delight me. Flora and her endless inquisitiveness is fantastic. And because Dan and I decided to try, just one more time, I have a toddler who, for all the frustration that his toddlerhood brings — nature of the beast — I can relish in his toddler-ness. Because he’s the last one.

My children are separate people, with their own opinions, likes, and interests. They have ideas! We have conversations! And — I’m sure I’m biased — but my kids are pretty neat. Flora is fascinated by birds. Kate is interested in baking. M is a work in progress. Flora likes her dad’s music better than mine, whereas Kate likes the same stuff I listen to. (M, again, seems to have no preferences yet, but he does like to shake his butt.)

I think I’m entering a good parenting phase, a place where I can start enjoying my kids. Or that’s how it feels to me!

What’s your favorite thing about having or being around kids now?

Random Thoughts: The Vacation’s Over Edition

Our family vacation was so much fun that I forgot one of my work passwords.

1. Back to school. Back to school. Back to school.

I’m trying to prepare. I’m trying to brace myself.

One of the pitfalls of having a nanny during the summer is that it makes me complacent. I come home expecting meals ready and the house picked up. Instead, I’m going to have to go back to cooking, homework, cleaning, violin practice (possibly times two), bathing, bedtime.

And I haven’t even figured in extra curricular activities (soccer? pep squad? another instrument?).

Chore parenting, in other words.

I’m trying to mentally prepare.

2. We’re going BTS shopping this weekend. I think. I hope. I would prefer to go to Target, but the girls want me to take them to Office Depot (nice commercials, Office Depot! Well done!). Someone else suggested Staples.

I don’t have time to go three places. Have you gone yet? Where would you go?

3. Clothes sorting.

I loathe this chore. I tried to outsource it this summer (for the spring to summer transition), but I didn’t do a good job, and it didn’t get done well or completely.

I need to go through the closets, see what needs to be donated, see what uniform clothing I need to procure (in short order), update the fall wardrobe and sizes, and see what else I can pass along. For three children.

Who wants to help? I’ve already enlisted my MIL, and offered to pay in wine.

Also, if you have girls under 6 or boys under 2, I probably have some clothes I can give you! Kate’s rapidly outgrowing six 6 (in length, especially). Give me a holler. (Not you, Jen Z. I already have piles of clothes for your little miss.)

4. I will miss summer. It saves my sanity, having a nanny, having long evenings where baths are probably necessary, but early bedtime is optional. I *hate* chore parenting — I like summer time parenting better. I suppose I am not alone in this (am I?). Is it a work-outside-the-home-mom thing, or do some of you SAHMs feel this way too?

5. Although, in good news, both Flora and Kate are looking forward to going back to school. They like to learn; they like their friends (mostly); they like their teachers.

They are really looking forward to going BTS shopping. Which was always one of my favorite parts of BTS, too (still is, to be honest).

6. On Monday, of course, I went back to work. After spending more than a week in my company, M was a little confused. When I came home yesterday, he climbed up in my lap.

“Where did you go, Mommy?”
“I had to go back to work.”
“Did you pay the bills?”

Yes, baby boy, yes I did (well, helped pay them, anyway).