Mum 2 Mum: Choosing A School

What is Mum 2 Mum? Mum 2 Mum is a place where as online friends we can share a little of our own experiences, so why not pop in for a cuppa and join the conversation.

I was chatting to a girlfriend recently about an important decision we have to make way,way too very soon – where will our children will go to school?

With just one year before our (seemingly very) little people start on the conveyor belt of formal education, this is a question weighing heavily. I don’t think parents ever want to make the wrong decision when it comes to their children’s schooling!

So tell me…

Have you made the decision about where or how your children will be schooled?

Did you choose a public school? Private school? Homeschool?

What considerations or concerns did you have when deciding?

I’ll share my responses in the comments as well.

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  1. Just what I am thinking about at the moment..M1 starts kindy next year and we actually have quite a lot of choice down here in Margaret River…

    But I am sold on Margaret River Independent School – it has a lovely environment (out in the bush!) and has great parental involvement policy…Only problem is that there is a huge wait list for it! We are on the list but we shall have to wait and see

    If we don’t get bumped up the list then we will probably go for the local community kindy, it also seems very nice. There is also a private catholic school but as we are not catholic I haven’t considered it…

    • How nice to have a range of options which would suit, Gill. We are one the waiting list for our local private school but also have absolutely no idea if we will get a place.

  2. I’m going to check out the local private schools soon and my son is only 9 weeks old!! I have heard there are big waiting lists. I may end up sending him to a public school (I’m a teacher at a public school) for his primary school years but I want to check out all of the possibilities.

  3. A timely discussion Christie as my husband and I were just talking about this last night. We are in the catchment for the local state primary school (it’s down the end of our street) and it has a great reputation as do most of the schools in the local area. Because we’ve made the decision to have me at home full-time, we will probably need to stick to state schools, at least for primary school. Secondary schools is the one that worries us more. We’re not to keen on any of the local schools so we may have to save, save, save to get the girlies into a good school a little further out. Hopefully we’ll make a great decision down the track.

  4. We chose the school closest to home as a sense of community and the chance for life-long friends was one of our top priorities. It’s a very good school to boot (obviously a consideration!) x

    • Community and friendships are really important, I agree. Unfortunately, I am fairly sure that we will not live in this area for the whole of Immy’s schooling. The school we would like her to go to (but we still have no idea if she has a place) is walking distance from home so it would be a great choice.

  5. We are lucky to have a lovely Community Kindy and State Primary School in our suburb. There are a number of private schools close by as well but hubby and I opted for the state system. It seems to be working out well so far (Junior only started Pre-primary this year) and I love being able to walk to school with the boys rather than having to bundle then into the car all the time. Hopefully he will make friends that live close by that he will know throughout his school life.

  6. This is a topic that I think about all the time– not only where/how my children will be educated, but also when to send them. Both my boys have September birthdays, and here in Nevada they could start as the oldest in their classes, or the youngest. I’ve pretty much decided that I want them to be the oldest in their class, but I haven’t decided if I will home school them, or send them to public school. It’s such a hard decision for me. I can see us going in both directions, and both options get me excited at the possibilities that we will have together– the people we’ll meet, the ways we’ll get involved, and all the things that we will learn together.
    Luckily I still have a full year to really make up my mind, because I’m really indecisive on this one!

    • This has been on my mind for ages too, Jane. In many ways I wish homeschooling was a more common, popular option here (as it is in the US) and I can most definitely see the benefits of both systems. I just wish I had more time to decide!

  7. Oh gosh that was well over 3 years ago now for us. We looked at schools for Annie keeping in mind all the time that we hoped Heidi would go there also.

    I spoke to kinder teachers, the early intervention teachers, other parents and visited many schools.

    Our closest private school was a Catholic School, the reception/admin staff were very rude at each occasion I had to contact them – having worked in reception / admin positions I know that courtesy costs little and gains much. The assistant principal told me flat out that whilst Annie would thrive in their system, Heidi would be better off at a public school. Add in their Prep class size of 30 children and I decided against them.

    Of the public schools we looked at I preferred smaller schools with more family feel to them. Larger schools have many great things to offer, but for us the environment of schools with under 150 children enrolled really appealed.

    Two schools hit our short list, both were family oriented, both encouraged parental involvement, both followed the same play/learn values, in the end we chose the one that was within walking distance.

    I’ve been very happy with our choice, I had some doubts when the Principal resigned during our first year there, but the new Principal is amazing. I’ve referred many parents to enrol at the school as I think it is fabulous.

  8. We would like Immy to go to the local private school which is walking distance from our home but there is a long waiting list and no guarantees that she will get in. We live in an area which has recently undergone a population explosion with young families and it concerns me that a number of the local schools are not (for one reason or another) are not as well resourced as either I would like them to be or to as they need to be to cater for the large numbers of children.

  9. With 2 out of 3 at school I can state we did make a choice. the youngest will be going next year. It is a local public school – private was never an option to even look at. We did debate if homeschooling would be possible – I know a few families who do home school and so could get information very easily.

    It is a small school in the area (not the smallest) and we did visit the possible schools (elections and fetes are a really good way to get a “feel” for the school layout :)) to make final choice. Numbers was an issue for our choice – a smaller school preferred over larger.

    Are we happy with teh school? – yes. Are our children learning and enjoying themselves? – yes. We make sure we do something in the class with both children (tends to be reading groups – but not always).

    Also it doesn’t stop – we are starting (just starting) to seriously look into high school choices for the eldest (and they have a few years yet before starting high school).

  10. I have been umming and aah-ing over this for a year, and Julian’s only two and a half now! My husband is SO laid back about it – “that school could be closed by the time Julian gets to secondary school”, “we might be living interstate by then” are some of his replies – but I find it hard to put it all in perspective like that! I went through private schools (leafy Kew grammar schools) but don’t feel it gave me much in the way of independent thinking. The best local schools for boys are Catholic, making a Catholic primary school more of a necessity (to make sure he gets a secondary place) but we also have Montessori here which I’ve started to explore. We visited the Montessori preschool last week and were amazed at it, we loved it and loved the teachers, loved the peaceful environment, and are now seriously considering taking the plunge and enrolling Julian in this style of education. The mind boggles – we would never have given ‘alternative’ styles of education any thought before. But can I make up my mind? No!

  11. We are very fortunate that our local public school (5 minutes walk away) is an intimate school with good results. It tends to be a feeder school for the nearby exclusive private school. We looked into the private school for high school since the public high schools are both single sex schools and I’d prefer my kids in a co-ed school environment (I think) – but the waiting lists were huge already for places in 2019 and 2021.

    We are fortunate that both our kids seem likely to be able to flourish in the traditional school environment. My daughter has been at kindy for the last 2 weeks and is loving it so I think we’re heading towards a great period of learning in her life!

  12. We are homeschooling. But not in a school at home kind of way.
    We are unschoolers or natural learners so we follow the kids lead and interests and learning happens. I know it’s not a traditional way and a lot of people find it very confronting but it really suits our family and we are all loving the experience.

    We are so busy I have no idea just where we would fit school in!

    • I would love to hear how you came to this decision, Shae???

      • It feels kind of like a natural progression for us (though I know it’s very different for every family). Our kids have always slept when they were tired, eaten when they were hungry and not coerced with punishment or rewards. When Tannah (who is almost 6) was kinder age it seemed like a strange thing to suddenly change what was working for us.
        I started coming across lots of other home educating families and after asking them lots of questions (and really loving their amazing kids) and reading lots of books we decided that was what we were going to do.
        There were quite a few things with the model of education that I really couldn’t get my head around. Homework was one (it’s never been proven to be useful), grades were another (seeking a grade rather that learning for the joy or interest involved-intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation) and really struggled with the idea that all the kids had to be on a similar learning journey at the same time and level or risk being bored or left behind.
        I also truly believe that learning happens from living. We learn maths while shopping, reading at the train station and science while cooking and so on and so on. If Tannah is motivated and interested in a subject she can “study” it for as long as she wants. Not as long as a curriculum dictates. We have so many wonderful resources to call on and so much time it’s easy to seek information.
        We have a wide circle of friends (both at school and not) who range in age and socio-economic background who we have lots of time to spend with and we have more time for organized activities if we want to do them without fear that school takes up the whole week.
        Again-I know this life is not for everyone but we feel so free. Freedom to learn and explore and immerse ourselves in the world.

        • Chrissy says:

          This is what I envision our learning environment to be Natural Learning with as much time as the child want to ‘studying’ their passions. But I am still a fence sitter and need to make the decision in the next 6 months. Decisions, decisions.

  13. We had decided to go with the local government primary school for both our kids, and last year we started attending the pre-kinder program where the 3/4 year olds attend for a 2 hour session once a week with a parent. So far so good – it’s within walking distance, we know people in the community, the school has lovely grounds, a wonderful principal and ranks well on the myschool website….

    But, despite all this we sent Doots to a private school. Why? I was having real communication issues with the teacher at our local school and despite repeated efforts to talk through some issues we were having, we were just not getting anywhere. It was quite difficlut to have to turn our back on that school, and the friends she had made.

    Three weeks in, kinder is going reasonably well (after a shaky start!). I’m impressed with the way parents are invited to be actively involved – I feel like we’ve been welcomed into a big family. The teachers are all wonderfully warm and engaged, and importantly for us, they have a high level of continuing professional development. I don’t love having to drive to school, but it’s close enough that we’ll be able to walk when she’s a little bit bigger!

  14. We had always planned to send the kids to public school as private schools are not an option in our rural area. As my eldest approached kindergarten, we found that she was quite gifted. We began discussing this with the local school, hoping to find out ways to better serve her needs (she was already reading chapter books at the time). Finding that the schools were not willing or able to work with her and continue to challenge her, we began to consider other options. We chose to homeschool our children. I was very reluctant, despite my teaching background. Still, it has worked out very well. My kiddos have time to play, rather than being at school or on a bus for 9 hours a day. They are able to continue to set their own pace in learning, staying well ahead of what our schools require. Our family time in the evenings is not ruled by the homework that must be done.
    We are loving homeschooling our children. It’s amazing what they learn each day whether it is during our school time or just as we go along cooking, playing, working, or shopping. We love this option. It fits us well. When it comes down to it, we just decided to make the commitment to give the children our very best of what we had to offer. It isn’t a perfect option, and none of them are. Homeschooling has worked very well for us.

  15. Wow, it’s been great reading all these posts. This decision is upon us and there are lots we are taking into consideration. I’ll try to explain it logically…..

    Our local primary school is not an option. I’ve heard too many bad reports about it from a number of different sources, including kids get so out of control they have to close the school for the day. We have a Catholic primary school in our suburb but, despite being Catholic, we have not been able to get our daughter (Kindy age) into it and are on the wait list. Currently our daughter goes to a daycare that runs a kindy program with a Regio Emilia approach and is very happy there. I believe in the local community and we have another government school within walking distance that is small, which I like. There are other good ones within a 5 minute drive but they are larger and have long waiting lists. Some views I’ve got from others:
    – if your child is average, send them to the local school but if they are above or below average, send them to a private school because they will be better catered for. I’ve also heard from friends that their children who are above average are being catered for in their local government school.
    – The education/curriculum is the same in government and private schools but pastoral care is better in private. Then again, I’ve also had friends pull their kids out of Catholic school and put them into the local one as it had smaller class sizes.
    – Schools change over time so send them local so they can have friends close by and be a part of the local community. Make it easy for yourself and send them somewhere close.

    My latest thinking is to forget the Catholic school and see if we can get her into the next suburb local school. Both my husband and I went to our local government school (I’m from a small country town) and my husband, who was gifted, got sent a few days a week in Year 7 to a special school. Now, in our 30’s, we don’t feel our primary school has had any bearing on where we are at in life. I work for a large company, love my work and earn very good money. My husband chasing his passion and is just starting his PhD and wants to lecture at university.

    Having said all that, we intend to send our kids to the same Catholic high schools that we went to. We are fortunate to live close enough to both of them.

    I hope others find this useful.

  16. Hi there!
    We are doing homeschooling this year and like Shae we are doing natural learning too. It’s working for us! We love it and we get to spend so much time sowing into our children and teaching them values that are important to our family.
    It’s not for everyone and to be quite honest it might not be for us forever. But we believe that it’s for us at this time and for this season.
    I am a Christian so this might seem weird to some but we believe that God wants us to bring our children back into the family home and and homeschool them.
    Thats why we do what we do!
    x Stacey

  17. Where we used to live wasn’t the best in town. We wanted to move before our daughter would start school or else we would be sending her to a private school which we had no idea how we would afford that. Luckily we did move to a better community in which case I hope and hear the schools are better. If I feel she still isn’t getting what she needs from a public school we might consider private, but really I don’t think we will have a problem.

  18. I am working full time, so homeschooling is definitely not an option. Besides, I also have only one child and believe strongly that only children need to spend some time outside of their parents’ protective shelter. Our daughter goes to preschool 3 times a week, and will start public K in September. She will be one of the youngest with her October birthday, but I believe she is ready for K. Our school is supposed to be good, but with budget cuts and increasing focus on testing I am somewhat concerned. Luckily, we have financial resources to consider other options (private schools) in the future.

  19. Natalie, I am in the exact situation: Full-time mom-dad, only daughter, 3-days a week at Preschool; October birthday-but, because she has been very well prepared at home and Preschool, she will be ready for K in September and be a little bit younger than most of the students. Our local public school is suppose to be one of the top three public schools in the district, but with budget cuts it really could be different from her nurturing, lovely preschool. But that is the breaks, I say. We will always worry too much about our daughters education, it is why her Preschool is private and expensive. We looked at several of the private schools, we did not worry about the cost–it’s what we currently pay for three days a week at the Preschool. What did concern us is the school’s social environment: does the private school population (and values) reflect an environment that fosters understanding of differences and diversity (example: do they have kids with special needs in the class so students have a chance to learn to be in a world where are called on to be accepting of differences)? Because of state aid programs, my daughter goes to a Preschool that has kids from different socio-economic backgrounds, and because her teacher happens to have experience with severely autistic children, the school has been able to accept students who have some special needs. As a former middle school teacher, I know class environments rely heavily on the teacher (and leadership of the school). It became clear while going through the application process that sending my child to an expensive private school would really mean she would be going to school with kids that were just as smart, just as well-off, and it was a turn-off. I went to elementary school with kids who were hearing impaired. Our teachers and interpreters taught us sign-language and created an environment that included, not excluded kids who could not hear. They understood signing was a language that we could learn and benefit from; I am so grateful for their work because it makes me see the world differently today and I hope my daughter will have similar opportunities.

  20. We chose a local primary school for our boys and have been really happy with our choice. With primary I believe it made far more sense for me to be able walk to school and continue many of the relationships we had started through kinder with the parents in the area and the community in general. I also had a realy good feeling about the school when I visited. For secondary the choice will get a little more complicated. Having a son with a visual disabiity means that there will be many other considerations to take place. What an old professor in my teaching degree said to me once was, “when you are looking for schools for your children, be sure to trust your gut instinct”. It worked the first time around so hopefully it will again when we come to choosing secondary. I also believe in visiting a school not just on open days but on a normal school day and talk to the kids and ask them questions yourself rather than relying on the glossy brochures and memorised slogans and rhetoric.

  21. My daughter is in Grade 3 and my son is 2, so we are a few years past our first round of kinder and school decisions and just today I submitted the forms for my 2yo to attend 3 and 4yo kinder here in Melbourne.

    I know it is a controversial subject, but I do wish that the My Schools website was available before I made a decision for which local primary school. Her school does well, but I had to choose based on gut feel alone with very subjective information, the stuff schools wanted me to know. More happy about the gut feel than the subjective information! I am not unhappy with the kind of education she is receiving but there are aspects of the school I am less than impressed with. I am attending school council this year and hope to be able to get discussions going on those niggly things. Had the my school website been up in 2007, I would have cast my net a little bit wider with another tool to assess what’s available. It was hard enough researching 3 or 4 schools in any depth.

    Anyway, I am now slowly looking at secondary schools, and giving some attention to a new choice of primary for my son. We aren’t interested in private education as things stand. There is nothing compelling about the private schools in our local area that would justify diverting money away from other things we want for our family – I think affording extracurricular activities and some holidays, etc without too much stress on our one income family is good for their education as well.

  22. Georgina says:

    I too have been thinking of this issue, we have to make a decision for next year schooling. We have a few issue, are we going to move back to our home state or stay where we are. Do we go private or public. Back in the home town the high school we would like to send them to is private and the closest school to us is also private and a feeder school for the high school, but across the road is the local public school which is a pretty good school, both walking distance to home. I have no idea what to do. I will have to organise a trip back to Adelaide to check out the schools just in case we move back there while also checking all the local schools in the small town in Victoria to work out which one we will use if we stay here. Too many life decisions in one year for me but we have no choice it has to be decided. My youngest if we stay in Victoria can go to 3 year old Kindergarten next year but if we move back to Adelaide he wont have that option. See I just have no idea what to do or where to start.

  23. Interesting view points and great sharing of ideas.

    We are facing this decision next (this) year…very complicated on so many fronts for us.
    I still have no fixed ideas for 2012.

    1. We are moving to a farm property outside a country ‘town’ .Being in a rural area – bus or drive is our only option but only probably 20mins drive so not too far. I just need to do some leg work and visit our options. The bus I have no idea about or how long the journey is.

    2. Twins – fraternal boys so I want to check how they plan to manage them – if we choose small school they will be same class and that is what I prefer at this point. Also like the idea of smaller class sizes .

    3. One has some special needs and I was advised to check what resources the school gets, small schools don’t get as much in NSW apparently.

    4. Which direction ? we can choose from a variety of public and private depending on the $ and availability of positions for 2 children. All involve me driving in the early years as I wouldn’t consider a bus till much older. Though ‘down the track’ in the future I need to consider the bus option or be prepared to drive them for 7 yrs or however long our tree change lasts.

    5. I would consider homeschool for kinder /grade 1 etc but I want to give them each the chance for other friends than just each other ( we will be relatively isolated on our property and no near neighbours or friends in the back yard or over the fence).

    6. I want to get involved in our ‘new’ community and I found with my eldest (17)school was one of the best ways.

  24. Shirley says:

    I am facing this decision too and it is a pain.

    I have been watching how J is developing and the more I watch her the more I feel School isn’t the way she learns. I have been looking into homeschool and have found some fantastic resources online. The Home Education Network is primarily a victorian website but has info for other states as well as links to Australia wide sites.

    I have also put her name down for a ‘new’ style of school in Melbourne which is an offshoot of Eltham College as it seems a good compromise. We are going to visit it next week. It is not cheap though and might be out of range.

    I work part time and will have to continue to do so when J is at school so a lot of planning needs to be done (including financial planning) to see if homeschooling is an viable option. I think I will be quite disapointed if we can’t work it out as I really want the best for her and I don’t think ‘traditional’ school will be able to provide it.

  25. louise Comra says:

    My husband and I were totally confused and we are going to be in Melbourne and wanted a private school.

    We found a service that actually helps you find a private school and they are totally independent-i didn’t realise a service like that existed!

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