I send my kids to private school, and that’s OK. I didn’t know how to cook and they got organic food.
December 5, 2020
Can I tell you a Dr. Plastic Picker secret? It’s not that our two children go to private school. Most of my patient families know that as I’m open about that when they ask me questions. I myself went to a stellar suburban public school, and had mixed feelings about sending them to private school. From my suburban public school I was probably better equipped then most of my prep school classmates at Crimson University. Dr. Plastic Picker’s secret is that I don’t really like many of the other parents who have also send their kids to our same private school. About a quarter I really like, but three-quarters I can’t stand. When I have to interact with those parents as a fellow parent, I sometimes question our choice. But it’s the price I pay to send my kids to private school. But now that I think about it, I’m sure every parent at any type of school probably feels the same way about our fellow parents. So maybe Dr. Plastic Picker’s secret isn’t much of a secret?
A fellow physician posted on our HMO MD facebook group about private schools, and it’s a question that will generate a lot of discussion and debate. As with many things, it’s taken me years to come at peace and understanding about the decisions we made. I believe in the public school education system and hope that it can be adequately funded. My accountant father often asks me how much I spend in a particular year on tuition, and I sheepishly tell him. For someone who is otherwise super frugal in life, it’s embarassing how much two tuitions cost. He shakes his head. But remember otherwise we have made smart financial decisions, and have anywhere from a 40-60% savings rate every year and we are a two-MD couple who both work full-time without any other help at home. Mr. Plastic Picker still drives his trusty Red Prius that is getting close to 100,000 miles. I clean my own house and scrub my own toilets.
I’ll be honest with everyone. With much about anything personal, especially personal finance, the “personal” part is the most important part to realize. And for us the particular college prep school program was 100% the right decision for us. I have no regrets now that our son is toward the end of his schooling. We reviewed his trimester grades and his father was very pleased. For our daughter also, let’s just say she is a better student then I was – and that’s saying a lot for someone who is quadruple Crimson Univeristy trained. They have both thrived in the inordinately expensive soil that we chose to plant them in. They both have best friends who are interesting both half-Indian half-European, and have been best friends with those particular children since kindergarten. I am good friends with those two moms and families, and we are alligned mostly with our moral values. I trust those families and will send my children to play over there, which is not true for the majority of the rest of the world.
Ten Reasons Why Private Prep School was the Right Decision For Our Family
- Mr. Plastic Picker went to Prep School. My dear husband is a product of the prep school system on the East Coast. He was a scholarship recipient student. He thrived in that system, and his particular prep school was a formative experience. He wanted the same for his (our) two children. This was almost non-negotiable. He seems an affable person to others, but my husband regarding education is the ultimate decision maker. Since he does make most of the income in the house and actually helps with almost all the homework and school scheduling since they both entered middle school, this was 100% his decision. Mr. Plastic Picker really loved school when we was young, and he LOVES being the father of a middle and high-schooler. I have to be honest. After I helped teach them to read and ensured they were good readers, Mr. Plastic Picker took over starting in middle school. I have no idea what is going on. I think I would stress them out too much. The whole family shows me the good reports, and shoos me off to the beach. It works for me!
- Mr. Plastic Picker’s Parents Insisted On Private School. Mr. Plastic Picker’s parents sold their home and business to come help us raise our children when we were in residency. I kid you not. They sold EVERYTHING and just moved in with us, in a 750 square foot condo in Crimson Square. I was a naive junior resident when I had our son. What was I thinking? How was I going to raise a baby with two resident parents without any family nearby? They actually had advised us to have children soon as they were old-fashioned and worried that older age would affect the health of our children. So I had them both very young for a doctor, which was 27 and 30. They moved in to take care of the babies, and they also wanted to send the kids to private school. It made sense, because they had sent their son (the prodigal Mr. Plastic Picker) to private school.
- As A Young Mother Pediatrician I started off with Two Delayed Children. My children had the right genetics. But it takes a toll on children when both parents are working so much in the early years. When we completed our training, I had a chubby language delayed 3 year old and an ex-28 week preemie with lung issues and ear infections that required surgery. I wasn’t going to take a chance with their schooling.
- We Chose Our Jobs Based on Prep Schools. It seems crazy, but when Mr. Plastic Picker and I sat at the kitchen table in our apartment in Bethesda, Maryland – we discussed where to plant our family. Mr. Plastic Picker was in Boston finishing up his fellowship at Mans Greatest Hospital trying to sell our condo that we had overbought, and I was doing a research year at NIH with the two kids and the two grandparents in a 2 bedroom government-sponsored apartment. We weighed our job offers in New York, Boston and my home-town. I had desperately wanted to go home, but Mr. Plastic Picker was very concerned about the quality of schools. He weighed housing prices and salary of the jobs. We chose my southern california hometown mostly because our son was accepted to this particular prep school. The job offer at our currnet HMO was half the salary compared to the Boston offer. But we felt Prep School combined with my family also being nearby presented the best opportunity to raise our kids into their full potential. And honestly we were looking at prep schools in New York and Boston as well, and the once we send our kids was half the price as the equivalent ones in New York and Boston.
- I didn’t Know How To Cook. At that stage in my life, like many physicians who had been in school from age 5 to 24 continuously. I did not know how to cook. When was I supposed to have learned? I was studying the entire time. An older colleauge made a comment about a cooking/food post I put on my personal facebook page, and I was pretty irate. He didn’t mean anything by it, but made some comment about being surprised that I am cooking now. I may be more serene now and I do respect him, but to Dr. Dear Friend and another colleague I fumed, “He needs to shut his trap! I speak four languages.” That was random but that was what I was thinking. Plus I didn’t speak English when I entered kindergarten, so I had to learn an entirely new language when I was 5-8. I was a little bit busy. Cooking has been a wonderful experience for me and I’m learning it later in life because I was busy learning how to be a doctor before and four languages. I didn’t have the luxury of having a stay-at-home spouse like some MDs. My spouse was also training. That was petty but it’s buried in this blog post and I had to let it out! Letting it out! Yes. Feels great! Anyway, at this fancy prep school they provided all snacks and meals for my kids and those meals were semi-healthy and organic. I can do better now at home, but back then I really appreciated knowing that my children were fed local and organic fruits and vegetables.
- We Wanted to Live in A More Urban Area in a Suburban Town. Going to public school in our area would have required living in one of the newer subdevelopments that are more suburban. I grew up in an area like that and I would have been okay. Mr. Plastic Picker is fundamentally a Boston/New York person. His sisters all live in Manhattan and the East Coast. My husband can’t stand the suburbs. He can’t stand cookie-cutter. He barely agreed to move to Southern California for the kids schooling. We actually bought a house in the suburbs and lived there for 6 months. We were close to , not divorce, but a lot of marital strife. Everything about those homes drove him bonkers. It drove his parents bonkers. So our Prep School enables us to live in more urban areas of our town. Our actual neighborhood is safe, but it probably makes Mr. Plastic Picker happy that he drives past homeless people every day. It reminds him of where he grew up. Prviate School is much cheaper than divorce or moving back to the East Coast, which we had considered maybe a year into our translocation to California. We seriously looked into it. I remember that was a stressful year.
- We Drive Less. Where our school is located and where our homes have been located have minimized our commuting time. For two MDs with tight schedules, it has made a difference. Our son had required several years of speech therapy, and trying to get it through even our fancy prep school or the public school district was nontenable. We simply didn’t have the time to wade through evaluations and paperwork. So we paid in cash a private speech therapist who was the director of the Speech Pathology program of the local children’s hospital. Her office was very close to the kids’ school and Mr. Plastic Picker’s office. So for those years, we were still able to get to speech therapy, work and school. During those stressful years when kids have those specific needs, that proximity and minimizing driving time was very important. And we never used any sick leave and did it all on our own time and not company time. This is the same for all those little school events. Especially now Mr. Plastic Picker is able to drop off and drive to catch the last parts of any events.
- Easy Driving for Grandfather. Unlike many MDs, we don’t have babysitters nor any help at home. We have grandparents. Grandfather loves driving the kids to school and dropping them off at their fancy prep school. It’s the highlight of his day. The location of our home and their school is such that he can drive them safely, without us worrying about him getting lost. He’s still mentally very sharp but as he nears 80 – we do worry. Our son will be 16 soon. As a family we haven’t decided what to do about that. I think we’ll ask him to continue to let his grandfather drive him through his junior year.
- Smaller Social Circle to Navigate. It’s a smaller school and a smaller social circle to navigate. Even as a busy mom, I know most of the other parents. I don’t think I could have done this at a larger public school.
- Good Solid Set of Friends. Both children early on settled into a good set of friends group. This was very important and helped us decide to continue to send them where they are. The tuition was a stretch the early years, but as our financial independence has grown – it has become a smaller part. But knowing that each child had their best friend, and their best friend continued at the school as well – was instrumental in us keeping them there.
And that is it. Those are the 10 reasons we send our kids to private school. Notice I didn’t say anything about academic, college acceptances, prestige, social status. That’s it. Those are the off-beat and simple reasons we have two set of prep school kids in our otherwise super-frugal household. It’s definitely not the right decision for everyone, and I’ve actually dissuaded my own siblings and patients from the private school trap. I’ve had close friends and patient families where it was 100% the wrong decision because of their particular life circumstance. For us it was due to our particular family circumstance and where our kids were developmentally. And it was also a desire of Mr. Plastic Picker. There are few things the Mister demands, but this was one of them. And knowing where they are now in their schooling and seeing the joy he has as a father being involved in this school that echos his own experiences, it was 100% the right decision.