08/23/2011 01:21 EDT | Updated 10/24/2011 05:12 EDT

Why My Daughters Go to Private School, Even Though I Can't Afford it -- Part 1

I have fundraised, borrowed money, volunteered time and made numerous sacrifices over the past seven years to send my daughters to private school and I suspect that I will continue to do so over the next 10 years. So why do I do it? Very simply, I value the character formation of my daughters.


Sure, the most common perception is that a private school education is only for the rich and privileged. And while that opinion might have some historical truth, I'd like to suggest a slight amendment to that statement that would make it more accurate:

Private school education is not only for the rich and privileged, but also for any parent who is willing to go into debt, willing to fundraise, willing borrow from family, willing to volunteer time, and especially for those willing to make massive sacrifices to their lifestyles, all for the sake of their kids.

In this three-part series of Like Father, Like Daughters, I'll endeavor to explain why I chose to pay for something that I could have for free, and why I feel that it will pay great dividends in years to come despite the many sacrifices made.

I've sent both my daughters to a small private school here in Toronto since junior kindergarten and I by no means fraternize with Toronto's rich and powerful society. I have however, humbly fundraised, borrowed, volunteered time and made numerous sacrifices over the past seven years, and I suspect that I will continue to do so over the next 10 years. So why do I do it?

Very simply, I value the character formation of my daughters and I'm willing to beg and borrow for it.

Now keep in mind, I'm not suggesting that a private school would provide a better academic education than a public school, nor am I inferring that a public school education is inferior across the board. In fact,  the level of academic excellence wasn't even a deciding factor in the private vs. public education decision. My number one priority in educating my children is their character formation and ensuring that the virtues, values and traditions that they are taught at home and by the family are also instilled in their learning environment. I believe virtues such as faith, hope, charity, courage, fortitude, restraint, compassion, prudence and love would not be promoted, let alone practiced, consistently by the faculty, administration and students at the local Catholic public school. Everything else scholastic and athletic falls second in my books.

So, while in the process of deciding on a school, I spoke to several teachers from both the private and public sectors and even to a few who taught in both. During that discourse, I found a common trait in their outlook which I found particularly interesting. Apparently, the teachers who taught in the public school seem to abhor parent-teacher interviews, whereas the teachers who taught in the private school commonly welcomed it and even encouraged them more frequently, both formally and and informally.

Now why would that be?

When I proposed my observation to the various teachers, the general consensus was typically consistent. In the public school system, there seems to be a natural discord in the relationship between the teachers and the parents. It's "us against them." The teachers vs. the parents. "You bring you kid here and let us do our job." While I'm sure that it's not the rule with every teacher in the public schools, it does appear to be a commonly accepted mindset.

Surprisingly, amongst the teachers employed in the private schools, there seems to be the generally accepted understanding that the parents are the primary educators and their role as a teacher is to support and supplement the parents' direction and mandate. They insist that the parents become involved in various matters of the school. I certainly like that idea. If I have a set of principles that I work to instill in my kids at home, I want them reinforced in the school. I like the idea of  the teacher and school being accountable to the parents rather than to a faceless board of trustees.

The Score -- Private School: 2, Public School: 0

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In the next installment, I'll discuss some of the commonly accepted "best-practices," disclosed by some teacher friends (over dinner and a few bottles of Australian Merlot) that have further convinced me that I've made the right schooling decision.

Stay tuned.