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1 Family, 4 Kids – Our School Choice Story

It is common for my wife and me to get a puzzled look when we tell people that our elementary age children are split between two schools. Some question the inconvenience of it, which is true. It does create a slightly longer morning and afternoon commute to pick up children (neither our public nor private schools in our community offer bus service for most children). However, many simply have never pondered the idea that a single school may not be the right fit for every member of their family.
While I have the opportunity every day to advocate for giving educational choices to low-income Americans, our family’s personal experience helps crystallize for me that this opportunity should be available to all Americans, not just those who have the fortune of living in a particular school zone or with the means to pay tuition.
We have been blessed with four wonderful children who have shown great academic aptitude. Our last one will be in preschool this year. The others are entering fifth, third and first grades. Our oldest, a daughter, was the type of person who would stand out in a room of 100, let alone a classroom of 25. She has a lot of zeal for school, loves her teachers and pushes herself to be better. I joke that she could parent herself and turn out just fine. She was zoned for a large (for our area) public school with an economically diverse student body. I met with the principal before enrolling her, and I was confident she would be challenged.
We are thankful that our daughter has excelled socially and academically at her school. She continues to grow, she is exposed to a diverse group of friends and she loves the environment. Some may say that there are “better” schools in town, but it has been the right fit for her, the staff is wonderful, and the school has made great efforts to serve high achieving students like her.
Now, we turn to her brother, two years her junior. He attends a local Lutheran elementary school. The personalities of our two oldest children could not be more different. He was equally skilled academically, but he is the type that would be perfectly content to slip to the back if no one would notice. It is very possible he would have been fine at his sister’s school, but we did the odds. The chances of him laying low was a lot less in a school with only one “section” of his grade, at the Lutheran school, as opposed to one with three. Plus, the Lutheran school has a classical curriculum that my wife and I were both excited about.
The result? Both have flourished. Our daughter has developed into a good, empathetic friend and leader in her classroom. Her brother, while still a quiet guy, has no place to hide. His teachers do a great job engaging and challenging him.
That one is a public school and one is private school makes no material difference for our family, other than the financial cost of one being paid for through my taxes and the other being paid through tuition. What matters is that the building they enter is doing the best job for each of them individually.
Their success made the decision for our third child, and now our fourth, that much harder, because we like both schools.
However, I think about the families that are not blessed with this predicament. Many do not have the finances or the flexibility. I do not think that is fair or just. Additionally, in today’s modern age, delivering a personalized educational experience should be an expectation and not a luxury. How many families should be experiencing education the same way that we are? Asking myself that question is what drives me professionally to do the very best for our nation’s children.

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