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Wanting More

We all want more, we want the best for our kids. Defining the best can be problematic.

I’ve been actively house hunting for the past month. My husband wants a change of neighborhood, a larger lawn, and I would like a smaller house. We live in a neighborhood where we walk to shopping, we would like to move to another neighborhood where we will also walk to shopping. We will not move into the hills, nor will we move further from the children’s school. The homes we are looking for are priced about the same as the one we will be selling, this move will be a lateral move. We are looking forward to an unchanged budget.

Our kids are in a K-8 school, Jane will be entering the 6th grade in the fall, and Alexander will enter the 4th grade. It’s a good school. Like any school it is imperfect, it’s not inexpensive, but it is not expensive by Los Angeles private school standards.

We were a public school family. Alexander went to an SRLDP program instead of a private kindergarten. It was a wonderful choice for him. He thrived in an academic setting, and we both loved the shortness of the day. Unfortunately the local public school was not a match for either child, and we moved them to the private school they currently attend.

While house hunting I realized that a significant portion of our budget is allocated to tuition expenses. I love that we can give our children a great education, it’s my job as their mother to provide them with every opportunity, what they do with it is up to them. I don’t often feel burdened by the tuition, it’s enough money to change our lifestyle, but I’m grateful that we can swing it.

While driving through a swanky part of town a few weeks ago, I realized that we could afford a small house there. If we made the move the kids could go to public school there, they’re really well funded. Case closed. Right? I’ve looked online, and driven past a number of homes in the swanky pocket that we could (maybe) afford to live in, and then the real epiphany came.

We moved into this neighborhood so that we could be with families like ourselves. Our children have access to everything, in part because we live in Los Angeles, and in part because everyone we know is in Sports, TV or Film production. Our children will struggle with excess, why add more? We’ve chosen a part of Los Angeles where children grow up a little slower, and this is good. I like that our kids wear a uniform to school each day. Today was a free dress day, and the chaos of the morning reinforced for me that we have made the right decision.

I remember growing up in Manhattan Beach, and how it had the best schools in the country, but still we went to private school. I know how you plan for one thing, and end up with another. I don’t want to be house poor and find out that swanky town’s school district isn’t a match.

So we won’t be looking at homes in that other part of town, not in the next ten years at least. Sometimes wanting more for your family looks like you’re being modest, when in reality you’re reaching for the stars.

13 thoughts on “Wanting More”

  1. I taught at a private school. I also attended both public and private when I was growing up. I have to say, there is a difference. I love the fact that private schools often are able to enforce their rules more, and to really crack down on things parents dread – bullying, inappropriate clothing, etc.
    I like this post because as a parent of a very little one, I'm constantly faced with choices about what will be best for her in the upcoming years. We are moving soon, and if we buy a bigger home I have to go back to work. If we choose a smaller one I can stay at home still. There are drawbacks to both. Sometimes I feel like I'm going to go crazy figuring out which choice will help shape her into a confident, secure, happy girl.
    Personally, I think you picked the right choice. I know many public schools are wonderful, but when it comes to some of the day to day things, they can't hold a candle to what a private school provides.

  2. We live in a much smaller house than I would like to. I can attribute that to a thousand years of private school tuition. The kid's education trumps a bigger house. But I would be lying if I said that I don't think of moving to a place that would allow us to send them to a public school.

    Not to mention that it would be nice to have the option to retire earlier than 125.

    Still, they are receiving an incredible education and that is invaluable.

  3. We moved to our present home 8 years ago, at least in part for the promise of great schools. A promise that did not pan out for our children. No matter what school district you move to, things are likely to change at some point. Your kid may not be a good match for the award winning learning on laptops program or you may get a terrible teacher one year. And at that point, if you can afford to consider private school, you'll be glad to have other options. Let's face it, CA public education is not facing its finest hour right now.

    Never easy balancing what you want and what you need. At least you've got the first part down – figuring out what those things actually are.

  4. We live on the “wrong side of the tracks” (if you will) in a pretty wealthy neighborhood. We do not own our home, we rent, because it is what we can afford right at this moment. Could we afford a house if we moved upstate or someplace else, probably. However, at present, my daughter benefits from an Early Intervention classroom 5 mornings per week, as well as Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, and ABA therapy. I've heard horror stories of what goes on in other counties, other states. So here we stay. The school district we're in, should she require continued services, is known for being very good about providing them, as well as being a very good district overall. Will we ever have a house here? I hope so. I feel like whichever way the everything goes, educationally, we're pretty set.

    1. If you have a child who needs services and they are in place, by all means stay put. Jane had speech therapy three times a week for a number of years. Without her iep (and at times due process) it would have been financially crippling.

  5. We moved into a house that I love and are sending the kids to private school. And, I am terrified that we won't be able to keep up and wonder if we should have stayed in that smaller house that I hated with the free, public school.

  6. This was one of the reasons we left San Francisco for OC. We simply could not afford to buy a home (we were done with renting) AND enroll our son in a private school. And, in SF, there really is no option. The public schools are terrible there. I hope the public school system in our town will be a good fit for us once our toddler starts school but we'll have to prepare ourselves if it isn't. As much as I hope the public school system will work for us, I will only enroll my son in what I believe will be the best school possible for him and our family. I don't care what I have to sacrifice to give him the best – smaller home, rental, work two jobs…whatever it takes. My first priority is his education.

    On another note, my husband is a product of the BH school system. There is no doubt that it is an excellent school district but it's very true about the excess issue. I credit his parents for keeping him grounded…but today is a different era than it was even 15 years ago.


  7. This is so timely for me right now. My husband and I moved to this house years ago knowing that it was in one of the best districts in the state, which unfortunately isn't saying too much. I have always been a big proponent of public schools and wanted my children to attend them, with an expectation of choosing good schools.

    This year my son started kindergarten and was able to get into a new language immersion program. I was thrilled. Here is that little extra I could provide him while staying in a public school. They promised parents a commitment to their next six years, regardless of budget changes. Now, just this week, they are saying sorry, but we don't think we can continue… and my dreams of a good education are crushed.

    Now I am left pondering what the next best step is for my son. And with two following behind, any decision ultimately affects them as well. Private school is likely not going to be an option for us either.

    Why can't this be easy? ;)

  8. I totally understand the plight – when I moved to Beverly Hills from New Orleans eleven years ago I had to really stretch my design assistant's salary to afford the rent. Because my profession is so image and perception aware, the BH address has been great for me – it caused me to get design projects and invitations to events that buoyed my career considerably. Once I was married and my husband and I started house hunting, we weighed tons of pros and cons for different neighborhoods, and the two things that kept coming up were – great police, great fire department, great schools, and when I decide to make the shift from S/WAHM and work more while my Critter is in school, we are still in the right place. Is there still superficiality and silliness when it comes to age appropriate behavior and possessions for our neighbor children? Absolutely, but even in growing up in Mississippi I went to a school where the norm was to get your dream car when you got your license, and from my perspective, this is really about how we steer our child. We have begun to align ourselves with people who have similar values, and I am happily surprised to say that they are MUCH easier to find when one has a child than when one does not. There is a huge community of Jewish Iranians in BH, and funnily enough, I can relate their core values to the same that I had growing up Baptist in Mississippi.

    I would have LOVED to have you as a neighbor – I am pretty sure you were shopping in my general vicinity, but this is a decision that has to be weighed on an individual basis. As my child is still so young, who knows what we will encounter down the road? I may be knocking on your door one day to ask about the schools in your neighborhood ;)

  9. I went to private school . My husband went to public. We both came out relatively equal, so we don't have a strong opinion either way. I would very much like to keep my son at the excellent Catholic school that he currently attends. I love the community and the teachers, but I just don't know how to swing it cost-wise and still have something left for our daughter, three years younger.

    Our public school isn't terrible, but the recent cost cuts throughout the state of California have me scared for the future. I envision bigger classes, even less pay for teachers, and a whole lot of kids falling through the cracks. For now, I'm just committed to staying involved with my children education, volunteering as much as possible, and hope that every intervention I make will give them what they need.

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