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Sending your child to a private school is an important, and possibly life-changing decision to be weighed carefully. Is it a good idea to uproot the child, put him or her in a new school, leaving their former school friends behind? In my opinion, from one who has been there myself, definitely, yes.
My introduction to private school started at the age of 12, when I entered 7th grade at an all-girls’ private prep school called Laurel in Shaker Heights, Ohio. It was scary at first to leave the familiarity of friends from my former school, a large, public school in another town. Every day I had to be driven by my parents to my new school, which was nearly an hour from our home. Plus, a new school meant making new friends in new surroundings, pretty terrifying for a shy girl like I was. Kids can be a bit tough on the new kid, I got teased a little at first. And, to top it all off, I had to wear a uniform. No more jeans, t-shirts and casual attire. I thought it was the end of the world at first.
Truth of the matter was, it changed my life for the better in infinite ways. First, the classes were smaller, meaning each student would receive more attention from the teacher. This was good for learning, but bad for slacking off. Oh yes, we Laurel girls were masters of girlish pranks and silliness at times, but we knew we had to behave ourselves and saved the fun for study hall. It meant getting down to work, being a more disciplined student. If I had trouble with a subject, it meant summer school if my grades weren’t up to par. Only once did I need to go to summer school, the following summer after 7th grade. It was actually a pleasant experience but a great motivator not to return there the next year.
It became clear to me even as a teen that wearing a uniform every day was a break from worrying about what to wear every day. It gave me the opportunity to focus on other things than fashion. The uniforms were comfortable, tasteful and nobody made fun of anyone else’s fashion sense , since we all wore them. We had the choice between blue tartan, solid green or light green herringbone; along with either white, blue or yellow oxford shirts (long or short sleeved). I became a master at shirt ironing, since it needed to be done every morning. So, we did have a little control over what we wore, just a little. If we wanted dress more trendy or fashionably, we saved it for after school get-togethers with friends.
Also, my new school had (and still has) a great area for art, which was my main focus as a kid, in being an artist. Laurel School had a whole art floor! We were allowed to pursue all types of art that previously, I’d only read about such as enameling, Raku pottery-making, wheel-thrown pottery, color theory, and more. Plus, we were encouraged to be creative in other arts such as dance, theater and music as well. They had a summer theater camp, which I participated in. There wasn’t a band (I’d been in the school band in public school, and missed being able to play an instrument) but there was glee club, and choir. I got into both, and enjoyed those thoroughly. My new school had a true appreciation for the arts that has led me to carry on my interest in all venues artistic throughout my adult life.
Being painfully shy, in private school, there was no way to blend into the wallpaper. They drew me out, whether I liked it or not. It was good for me, because that shy child is not a shy adult at all. The teachers were caring and supportive, welcoming contact with their students. It was lovely to be invited to my teacher’s Christmas party one year, and being shy, she had me stick with her to feel more comfortable. Mrs. Priscilla Ford was my algebra teacher, and totally a class act. She tutored me in math, which was my nemesis in school, and was a painter on the side, so she related to my artistic endeavors. My art teacher, Mrs. Helen Biehle, too, was a friend as well as teacher. It was wonderful to have such powerful, wholesome influences during turbulent teen years. I sorely needed confidence, and as an adult owe my lack of fear of public speaking to my former Speech teacher, Mrs. Schenk. Four years of having to get up on stage and sweat profusely while giving every kind of speech imaginable can really force the shyness out of nearly everyone.
All in all, private education is a wonderful experience, a quality protection from a busy, crazy world. It was a sheltered existence but that is good during the formative years of a young, impressionable child. There were no boys for us girls to flirt with, and clear boundaries to what was accepted of us both socially and academically. It taught us all manners, and respect for not only each other but the world around us. We took trips nearly every year to educational and interesting places such as Toronto and Washington D.C. Our chaperones sure did have their hands full watching over a bunch of excited girls, but we always had an appropriately good time, wherever we went (no major mishaps or craziness).
Even in private school, we were able to have prom, formal or informal dances of different kinds, and we had friends who were from other schools. Being in a private school doesn’t mean you no longer have your former school friends. I kept in touch with some of my old friends, and gained new ones, too. We worked hard, but had fun, too. After school, I spent most of my time with my horse, boarded at a local stable. I saw my friends there, and my horse. Then, went home and studied hard. It was a balance of hard work and fun, in a structured way.
Leaving the security of my small school (our graduating class had 54 girls in it) was a bit of a culture shock. I went to a large university, Rochester Institute of Technology, that was predominately made up of young men. It took a little getting used to, but I felt at no disadvantage. It was an adventure to try something new. Laurel School had accomplished its objective: to turn out a confident, disciplined young lady who wanted to further her education. I wholeheartedly recommend private schools, because it always helps to have guidance as we grow as children and young adults. It helps to shape our futures, and promote confidence. Plus, colleges and universities love well-rounded applicants from schools they receive students from every year. Our full-time college counselor at Laurel worked hard to educate us on what colleges were out there to pursue. We even had a class trip to a few Ohio colleges and universities, from Ohio State to Denison, and others. It was fun seeing the different styles of colleges and learning which best suited our individual needs.
For anyone considering a private education for their children, go visit the campus, take a tour and read the different biographies about the staff. Talk to teachers and students. Look at different schools, as each has their own feel to it. Explore financing options with the financial counselor, there are usually scholarships for those in need. By giving your child a quality education, this sets him or her up for a bright future. Public schools are great, too, it all depends on your child’s individual needs. Where would he or she best be happiest and prosper? Smaller class sizes will allow the teachers to help bring a shy child out of his or her shell. It did for me. It’s worth the risk, if you take it.
write by lopez