The Need to Justify

A friend of mine posted a link on facebook to a blog post titled, “Avoiding Ivy League Preschool Syndrome” and asked for thoughts. The article is here, should you care to read what I’m about to go on a bit of a tangent about.

While I get the general underlying sentiment of the blog, that having children doesn’t have to cost the earth, the best things are free, and any child can thrive regardless of the cost of activities/school they go to, there are so many things I disagree with and take offence to.

I suppose the bottom line is that having children can be as expensive or as inexpensive as you choose to make it. And whatever your choice, you have to accept it, live with it, and not whinge about it.

I don’t think parents should be criticised or chastised for wanting to send their children to a good preschool or school. At least, not until you know what their reasons for doing so are. The author of this blog post makes a sweeping generalisation that parents who send their kids to expensive private schools do so under the pre-tense that it will get them a better paying job and make them happier in the future.

We intend to send our son to private school, but as far as what kind of job or what kind of money or happiness he will have in his adult life is concerned, that could go either way, no matter to which school he is sent. I want to send him to private school because I like that they are more disciplined, don’t have to put up with the kind of disruptive and disrespectful behaviour public schools do, and because I think it will give him more opportunities to do extra curricular activities like sport, music, drama, or whatever it is he wants to do.

It seems as if the author feels a need to justify the decision to not buy into the “Ivy league preschool syndrome”, yet with his words he’s made me feel like I should justify the decision I’ve made for my child.

Ours is a school where about 40% of the kids come in with English as their second language, which seemed very exciting to all three of us in the MMM family. I only learned later that this statistic is considered undesirable to most high-income parents, because somehow they have caught the Disease that tricks people into thinking that the expensive and exclusive options are better than free or cheap ones.

Another sweeping generalisation – that people who pay for private school think its better because it is expensive. What about those parents, I’d hope the majority of us, who have done their homework and have found out that the expensive schools are better because they offer more subjects, they aren’t dictated by a public school board who don’t care what students are learning, so long as it’s within the budget, they are able to offer better pay resulting in more involved teachers,  their classroom sizes are smaller, giving more individualised attention to each student…I couldn’t tell you what the percentage of students with English as a second language is at the school we intend to send our son, and I don’t care. I’m attracted by the school’s teaching philosophy, anti-bullying policy, extra curricular activities…the list goes on, but certainly does not include the price or the percentage of English speaking children.

My son does swimming, and also has an interest in soccer and tennis. These things aren’t cheap, but they’re also not expensive in the grand scheme of things. What kind of parent would I be if my son said, “Mum, I’d like to play tennis” and I said, “That’s nice, but you can ride your bike down to the basketball court and shoot hoops instead, because it’s local and free and will make you a better person because of it!”

Stay at home mothers will always feel the need to defend their choice to stay home. Working mothers will aways feel the need to defend their decision to go back to work. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just all co-exist peacefully, appreciating each parent for what they do day in day out – and that’s the best job they can. We make decisions based on what we believe is right for us as a family, and what we believe is right for our children. There will always be private and public schools, there will always be an abundance of activities for children to do ranging from free to pricey. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all make our decisions and not have to justify them to anyone? Wouldn’t it be great if we could respect each other, the way we want our children to respect others.

No parent should be judged or feel the need to justify their choices and decisions that are made based on what we believe is best for us. For our family. Not yours, ours. No parent should be made to feel stupid, or to feel like less of a parent for wanting to give their kids more, regardless of what their definition of “more” is.

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