Choosing Your Own Path When It Comes to Your Child’s Education

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Dear Rivkie,

I would like to send my child to a school in my community that I believe would be more suited to her needs and future goals. It is not the school to which my friends send their children, and although I know my child’s welfare and future should be my guiding principles, I also know I will get a lot of negative feedback from my social circle. I have learned that my friends’ ideas about this school are based upon unfounded gossip and are wholly untrue, but I don’t want to get into debates ... especially at Shabbat meals when groups of people are gathered.

 

Do you have advice to both strengthen me in my resolve to “take the road less traveled” and prepare me to deal with inappropriate remarks about my choice?

Signed,

 Conflicted Chana

 

Dear Chana,

This is a topic close to my heart. School choices can be a contentious subject even in one’s own home (that’s all I will say about that).

The more you believe in your decision, the stronger you can be when confronted with people’s ridiculousness. For example, if you are at a Shabbos table where someone starts saying, “I heard that at that school, Principal X doesn’t make kids take math if they don’t want to. They don’t value secular education at all!” You can say, “Lashon hara, lamed hay, go back to pre-K.”

Ha! Just kidding. Don’t do that. Ever.

But what you can say is, “Really? Thanks for letting me know. Can you pass the cholent?” See? Easy peasy. In other words, don’t engage.

The bottom line is that your chiyuv (obligation) is to your children. It is not to any of these people, even if they are your good friends or family (that’s all I will say about that, part 2). But make sure you are choosing a particular school for the right reasons. What is it that you like about the school? Is your child going to fit in? Do you think the education she will receive will serve her well in her life?

Now, if you are looking for an alternative option for, say, your up-and-coming kindergartener, that is in a sense easier than a parent who wants to switch an older child from one school to another. If you are the parent of a teen or tween, please ask yourself: Is your child happy to be going to the new school? This is crucially important! No matter how much YOU like the place, make sure you have her visit at least twice to see if she feels good there. If she has a bunch of friends at her old school (which, for the tween and teen set, is everything), be very sure that she will be able to transition socially to the new school.

Did I mention this is critically important, especially to a girl?

The bottom line is, it is nobody’s business where you are sending your precious children. Only you know what is best for them and for your family. And, yes, people like to talk; but a large percentage of some people’s conversation is not too worthwhile. Those people may be worth distancing yourself from, and those who support your decision are those that you want to bring closer.

Good luck with this decision. I applaud you for thinking outside the box to do what is best for your kids.

 All the best,

Rivkie