Weighing the benefits with the cost of private school



How to make the right decision for your child


So who leaps over the financial barrier? Parents who want their children to reap the benefits of the smaller classrooms common in private schools in the Hudson Valley; parents who like to choose the type of education their children receive.

Hilary Smith, a mom from Lake Huntington, will send her daughter to her second year at the Homestead School in Glen Spey this fall. She feels her kids a strong foundation with small class sizes. “We believe in the Montessori philosophy,” Smith says of the 30-year-old school outside Port Jervis.

“We like that the focus is on learning concepts as opposed to memorizing facts; the curriculum relates across subjects. They learn the letter “M” sound is for “Monarch” butterfly in English. In Science, they learn the butterfly is an insect that the kids raise from caterpillars. In a fiber arts project, they learn that it migrates to the Continent of South America.”

Elizabeth Loarca, a certified public accountant with Knack and Pavloff’s offices in Monticello and Middletown and mom of private school children, says her eldest, who just started public school, spent the beginnings of ninth grade bored because she was so far ahead of her classmates. Pushed by her parents to take on more advanced subjects, she’s again found her footing, but she’s done it in part because of a confidence developed in private school.


READ MORE: How to choose between public and private school


Smith found that private school provided a “comfortable environment” for her daughter, where kids learn at their own pace. Whether that’s worth more than a public school, Smith can’t say. She found out she was pregnant with Sidney the day the movers came to move the couple upstate to Sullivan County. They hadn’t looked into the local schools when they planned their move.

But when she heard about Homestead, she made a visit and “fell in love with 80 acres of gardens, woods, vegetables and animals.” Aware there would be an extra cost for private school, Smith and her family were still in for a bit of a shock when the economy started to slide.

“It's scary,” Smith says. “Forget tuition. It's 60 miles round trip dropping off and picking up five days a week. Our car gets about 28 miles per gallon. When gas hit $4 a gallon we felt it.” Her family has mounted the hurdle, but for other families, Loarca recommends talking to the school first.

“It never hurts to ask,” she says.


READ MORE: Pick the right school for your kid!


The accountant reminds parents that both pre-k and kindergarten tuition can be written off their taxes as daycare expenses because kindergarten is still optional in New York State. Families can look into the Coverdell Education Savings Account (sometimes called the Education IRA), a tax-deferred trust account created by the U.S. government to assist families in funding educational expenses for beneficiaries 18 years or younger. Says Smith, “If it's a choice between a vacation and Homestead we'll skip the vacation.”

 

Jeanne Sager is a freelance writer and mom from Sullivan County.