Friday, June 26, 2009

The Hidden Challenges of Private School

Our daughter goes to private school since this is the only way immigrants in Quebec can get an English education. The rules for eligibility to the English public school system are confusing enough for Canadians, but pretty simple for immigrants since they closed a key loophole (closed between the time we accepted the job and the time we arrived!). She likes her school, and it has the advantage of being small, so she gets a good amount of attention.

As we were driving home today from a fun day of zipping along the tree-tops, she was going through the paperwork that came with the grades that we picked up before our ropes-course adventure. It led to a conversation about some of the challenges of private schoool:
  1. The school expects parents to lay out large sums of money on trips and other expenses without blinking. Many, but not all, of my daughter's classmates do seem to have incomes that exceed a professor's salary, so perhaps her peers are not so sensitive to the additional costs.
  2. Uniforms. No one likes them. They are not particularly comfortable, and they are over-priced. As a result, we tend not to by a complete set for five days of school, especially since there are different uniforms for winter and non-winter as well as stuff for gym. Which means that we have to do laundry quite strategically throughout the school year--twice a week.
  3. The least obvious one is that we are not well integrated into our larger neighborhood. We don't really know the kids in the surrounding blocks as my daughter goes to school a 15 minute car ride away, rather than to the very nearby schools. The kids come from all over the West Island of Montreal, and mostly not from around where we live. So, we know our immediate neighbors, but her friends are not nearby, making spontaneous interactions largely impossible with kids her age. That will probably be an advantage in a couple of years, though.
On the other hand, her school is far better integrated than mine ever were. Perhaps not along income, but the school does consist of bunches of immigrants as well as Francophones who cannot get access to the English public system (the language/education laws work to segregate the English and French-speakers born in Quebec).

As I said, we like her school, but it is a path we would not have chosen if we had any flexibility. Now that we are committed to this path (path dependence indeed), we have a good idea of what to expect for the next four years: lots of laundry.

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