Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Cost of a Good Education

My older daughter Booster finished first grade this year, and I have already spent more on her education than I spent on getting an undergraduate degree. It's shocking for me, a frugal midwesterner, to say this, to know that, in fact, it is true.

I'm a teacher, well, a Montessori guide, as some like to call what we do, and since I took the Montessori training, I dreamed, I expected, that my children would receive a Montessori education until at least fifth or sixth grade, hopefully longer. I take early childhood education very, very seriously, telling myself and my husband that we will invest in our kids while they are young and then trust that they will have the skills necessary to make a college education happen for themselves. I do not stress about how to pay for their college education and have spent more time worrying about the color to paint my daughter's bedroom than looking into college savings plans.

So when we decided that I would take a couple of years off for daughter number two, leaving behind a good job with tuition remission benefits, we decided to keep Booster in a Montessori program, a very reasonably priced program with a great reputation and beautiful campus. At the end of two years, I am not unhappy with this decision. I feel that she has benefited tremendously from the time she has spent at her school.

Fortunately, I have accepted a teaching position for next fall at a school with an intriguing program that begins at 3 months of age. Unfortunately, the school does not offer an elementary program. It might some day, but that day is a long, long time away. (I did receive an offer from a school with an elementary program this year. Unfortunately, while I was waiting for my interview, an assistant was screaming at the primary kids to shut up in the room next door. There were some other things about the school that did not mesh with my pedagogical views but I would have been more amenable to being flexible had it not been for the screaming assistant.)

So that now leaves us with a big question to answer. How much should we invest in Booster's education given the fact that we make a humble living doing what we both do? We live in an area where the schools are considered to be good ones. We just have a strong preference for the Montessori curriculum in a general sense, and now, Booster's teacher in a specific sense.

We mull over the pros and cons every few days trying to decide which course to take. Right now we have decided to take a break from the near constant discussion of this topic (while I consider to look for sign from the divine that will point us in the right direction).


  1. It's not an easy choice, I know. My oldest just finished his 7th grade yr at the Montessori school he's attended since he was 3. My 5 yr old is there, and my 3 yr old starts in the Fall. Sometimes I think about if we were somewhere else. But tonight was the middle school's graduation- my hubs, son, and I went, left the little ones at home with my mom.

    The ones not graduating introduced the ones who were. I was so proud of my boy, and as I watched the graduates speak, I was struck by their candor and their strength. Different themes emerged, among them "The world doesn't revolve around me", empathy for others, and a love of learning. With a good dose of disparaging humor thrown in. One graduate quoted a journalist (whose name I forget.) She said, "I don't fear tomorrow, because I've seen yesterday, and I love today." Then they all sang Regina Spektor's "The Call", and I just cried. For the confidence I wish I had had at their age, and for the respect I felt emanating from them for their community. And for my gratitude at being a part of it. I hope you find a path that works for you- I know it's not always easy. All best! We'll be at the zoo on Friday night sans Hubs, shoot me an email if you want to hang out! (Yeahhh Jessica Apiss!!!)

  2. what montessori school offers the elementary program? We will be moving to DC this fall and would like our son to continue in the Montessor program as long as possible. We'd appreciate any information on the schools in the area as we try to find a place to live. I found your blog from APISS. Thanks for any help you have time to give!

  3. Mary, There are so many Montessori schools in the DC area so chances are you will have a selection. Because of the economy and the transient nature of the DC area, there will likely be spaces in elementary programs. Let me know what area of town you will be in, and hopefully I can help you in a more detailed way. Also, there are websites with listings of schools: North American Montessori Teachers' Association (NAMTA), Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), and American Montessori Society (AMS). They could give you some idea as well of what schools are in your area.

  4. Rock-N-Roll Mommy thank you for your comments. I was recently at my daughter's school's sixth grade graduation and was also so impressed by the comments, confidence, and, frankly, vocabulary of the graduates. Details continue to fall into place and a decision will need to be made soon.