A Cause for Celebration

Today may be just another ordinary day for you, but not for me. Today, for the fifty-second time, I made a tuition payment to Pace Academy. Big deal, right? I’ve done it 51 other times….but this time is different because this is the LAST TUITION CHECK I WILL EVER WRITE TO PACE ACADEMY. Yes, it’s cause for celebration!

My husband and I are products of public schools. Since we both managed to find our way into the Ivy League, it never occurred to us that we might need to provide private school education for our little cherubs. That was until it came time to send our oldest off to kindergarden. I’m a prudent parent. I avoided caffeine, methyl-mercury-containing fish and gorgonzola cheese while pregnant with both of my sons, breast-fed them when they were babies, withheld honey from their diets till after their second birthdays, and enrolled them each in Montessori school at age three. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that I felt compelled to visit our public elementary school before entrusting the faculty with our precious rising kindergardener… and it was on the very day of that visit that I became a proponent of private school education.

It wasn’t the aging physical facility, it wasn’t the crowded classrooms, it wasn’t the faculty or administrative staff, it wasn’t even the state-mandated curriculum that prompted my about-face. It was the school nurse. Specifically, it was the school nurse dispensing Ritalin, Concerta and heaven-knows-what-else to a seemingly endless parade of robotic students (mostly boys) who passed by the school clinic on their way to the cafeteria at noon. It was horrifying. I’d never seen anything like it, and my plan was to do everything in my power to avoid ever seeing it again, which is how my kids ended up at Pace Academy. Now let me say this. I’m sure there are students at Pace Academy who require medication. The difference, it seems however, is that ADHD drugs are not integrated into the curriculum.

Anyway, my kids are what’s known as “Pace Lifers,” meaning they started in Pre-First (a.k.a. kindergarden) and attended straight through to graduation from high school. That’s 26 tuition years between the two of them. In case you’re wondering what I mean by “tuition years,” let me explain. See, private school education is expensive and “tuition years” is an alternative measure of time employed by private school parents to impress on their kids just how expensive attending private school is. For example, although our family will have spent a total of 18 years at Pace by the time my son, Jared, graduates this coming May, that converts to 26 “tuition years,” or one year for each year of tuition paid. Get it?

Believe me, 26 tuition years is a long time and buys a lot of stuff…like a small island in the Mediterranean..but we make sure our kids understand it’s the best investment we’ve made. Why? More than acquiring knowledge, my kids have learned to be independent thinkers. I witness this daily in Jared, a Pace senior, who never fails to illustrate the draconian-ness of his father’s and my parenting philosophy (i.e. no you cannot attend unsupervised parties or co-ed sleepovers) and in my son Christian, who managed to emerge a patriot and political conservative, in spite of earning a B. A. in political science from a small, competitive liberal arts college (emphasis on the LIBERAL).

In July of 1995, I wrote the first of 52 tuition checks made payable to Pace Academy and today I wrote the last one. 52 tuition checks over 26 tuition years is quite a chunk of change… and yes, it’s cause for celebration, in more ways than I thought possible.

4 thoughts on “A Cause for Celebration

  1. Having had my kids in both private and public school I felt more kids (especially boys) were given medications at the private schools. There seems to be more pressure there to keep up academically or get asked to leave. It’s a higher stakes game at private school as parents in public schools can say ‘no thanks’ to the suggestion while the private school may be rejected from the school (and implicitly the social circles that accompany them).
    If you didn’t see the long line at the nurses office at your private school I think they just hide the line better.
    While there are many valid reasons to choose private school in Atlanta, I’m not sure the line at the nurses office should be what scares you off. At least the public school offered you transparency in this regard!

    • Beth,
      I certainly respect the conclusions you draw from YOUR experiences. Since, however, this essay was written as a reflection of MY experiences, I trust you will agree it is not up to you to proclaim what SHOULD or SHOULD NOT drive me to run screaming in horror from public to private school. Thanks for reading.

  2. Writing a last tuition check to a private school is a “cause for Celebration” financially, the party has just begun. When you become an empty nester the party is into full swing. Our new found freedom having my 2 children now in college is simply said….. party on!.

    • I have begun preparing for empty nest hood by dragging my poor husband to ballroom dancing lessons. I’ll either be ready for the next party or Dancing with the Stars…

      Thanks for reading, Tim D. The bleachers aren’t the same without you…

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