Private schools?

lori316December 4, 2005

My oldest son will be entering high school next year. Please bear with me as I tell you a bit about him (brag). Brian has always been a smart kid. He's always read well above grade level, he has an incredible memory, and is in a gifted/talented math program. Math is a real strength for him, and he could do complicated multiplication/division in his head in early elementary.

Our town's pulic school system is a decent one (I survived it). However, we are getting pulled in several different directions. His uncle is a track coach at a school around 40 miles from us (1.25 hr commute each way) The school has agreed that since he has no kids of his own, they would allow him to have his nephew (Brian) attend for 1/2 tuition. The regular tuition is $8,000 per year. It's an all boy school with probably the second best reputation for a high school education in the state.

BIL is really pushing for this because my son is an excellent runner and would certainly help the school's track team. Brian loves to run, but he's also an excellent baseball player and soccer player. I KNOW BIL would pressure him to run track year 'round and he'd have to give up all other sports. I don't think Brian would be happy with that.

To make things even more complicated, we got a call from the coach at another private HS (I'll call School B), which is an amazing opportunity. It's approx. 30 miles away, except we would't have to go through a city, so the commute would be about 35 min. It's THE school to go to, education-wise in the state. They have an extremely high rate of kids that go on to Ivy League, something my son has in his head that he wants to do, or at least be accepted to. In my mind, being contacted is truly an honor. The kicker...tuition: $22,000 a year . Now, I love my son, but $22,000? LOL Even if I could afford it, is this reasonable for high school?

The school has offered a scholarship, but we haven't heard how much yet. They also want him to run for them, and I think he'd also have to commit to giving up the other sports.

Our local public school doesn't have a track team at all, so he'd be allowed to run with the next town over, while still attending our hometown school.

What to do? He also has two younger siblings, so can I justify sending him to a private school, wiping out all my finances for the other kids? How fair is that?

Also, Brian is very goal-oriented. He's not happy with straight A's, they have to be A+. He's a perfectionist. There are alot of down sides to that, though. He gets migraines at least once a week. He's very stressed and obsessed with perfection. He's 13. I want him to be a kid. He needs to just goof off sometimes, have fun. When I went to the website of School B, they have a link on there called "The Pressured Child". No way do I want him pressured.

When I ask him what he wants to do, he says he wants to be able to play whatever sport is in season, but wants School B for the education.

As far as his future, right now he talks about going to law school. His dream job is to be a sports agent, which is perfect for him. He siged up for Spanish because he believes it will improve his chances in the field (think latin american baseball players). To me, the average 13 year old just doesn't think like that, and he can do whatever he wants.

I know this is long and if you're still reading, thank you for listening to me brag about my kid. He really is special. If this was your kid, what would YOU do?

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Hi, Lori,

Having had my children in both private and public high schools (son attended and graduated from private; daughter started in private, transferred to public this year as a sophomore), I'd say you should primarily try to listen to what your son wants. Our children are quite outspoken about their hopes and desires with regard to education, and we try to accomodate them within reason. Also, if they ultimately make the choice then they don't have the chance to say "I told you so" if things don't work out to their liking (as in my daughter's case). What works for one may not work for the other.

Your son is obviously an achiever and motivated, so he'll most likely get a great education no matter where he attends; he'll seek out competitive classes, from Honors to AP. However, in our experience , we have found that good grades are harder to achieve than in the public schools for similarly titled classes. There are even some private schools that don't believe in giving out A's all too easily (i.e. Belmont Hills in Massachusetts). Knowing this, it's possible that a student's GPA can be lower in a private school although the education may be better; if a college doesn't take this into consideration, that can be an adverse factor in admission (This has been an acknowledged problem for students' from Belmont Hills). Your son may do just fine with this, or the pressure of maintaining stellar grades and competing athletically may be a problem worth considering. It's something you should discuss with him, and see how he feels.

I do know that some private high schools have worked hard to develop a rapport with admission departments of various ivy league colleges, who are aware of the high schools' academic reputation and their ability to produce well-prepared graduates. This may be the case in some public high schools as well, but probably only those at the very top of the state's ranking of public high schools.

As far as tuition, pretty much all private schools have considerable endowments to help fund scholarships. If someone has approached you , I'd expect you're in good shape to be offered something generous. Furthermore, there are other financial need applications that can be filled out and evaluated separately from a child's admission to the school.

What would I do? If finances were not a consideration, I'd let him go the private school if, after visiting it and thinking about it, he likes it best. If finances were a consideration, I'd let him apply to the school but make it clear that the only way he'll be able to attend is if you receive X dollars in scholarship/financial aid. A child your son's age can certainly understand the need for a family to be careful with a budget. Also, be aware that many times a scholarship
offer can be negotiated; if the school wants your son (as it appears), they may be able to increase the offer if you initially refuse it (I have a good friend who, after his son's first year at a private school, made it clear to the business office that although his salary increased over the course of the year he could not contribute more to the tuition; they gave him more $$ the next year).

I believe private schools are a wonderful opportunity for the child who is willing to work hard and appreciate that opportunity . If that's what he really wants. And if it doesn't work out for whatever reason, he can always switch back to public. It's done all the time. Nothing venture, nothing gained.

Good Luck!

From the "other" Lori

    Bookmark   December 4, 2005 at 6:31PM
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Hey Lori (the OP!)-- What you might do is check and see if there are any financial aid or scholarship programs available for School B. Just for the record, I do know of one "high school" in Lakeville, Connecticut that's about 75,000.00 a year, with alumni names like Eisenhower and Kennedy. :-) (I did some work there years ago). As for what your son wants to do, you might have him make a "priority list", and see which option offers him the most of what he wants.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2005 at 7:24PM
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a friend of mine's son entered purdue this fall after flunking 2 classes his senior year. but.........he did outstanding on his SAT's. they must not of even looked at his grades....

    Bookmark   December 4, 2005 at 10:08PM
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Honestly, I would not feel comfortable sending him to school B for a couple of reasons if I were in your shoes. First of all, the pressure at a school like that (not to mention the pressuer he puts on himself as a perfectionist) would be very hard for him-- the competition would be greater, and it sounds like it would put him even more on the fast-track to an ulcer or panic attacks! (Sorry to sound so dramatic.) I wonder if he would even admit it to himself if the school ended up being a poor fit for him-- he might view it as a failure to transfer out since it is the "BEST." It just sounds like such a pressure-cooker, and consiering what you've said about him I would really worry. My sister's childhood friend was a lot like your son and committed suicide his freshman year at a very difficult college. Of course, your son might handle it beuatifully, but given what you've said, I would not so it.

The second reason is the tuition cost-- I just don't think *I* could justify using ALL of my resources on the firstborn when you have said you could not afford to do the same thing for all of the kids. It could send the message to the younger ones that they are not as important in the long run.

The BIL's school sounds better pressure-wise, but that's a LOT of commuting time for your son-- add up the hours per year! Plus, it is still expensive. If you do decide to do it (and could offer the same opportunity to the others later if they and you wanted) then I would make sure beforehand that you knew what you were getting into as far as having to give up other sports, etc.

I would NOT do any private school if the other children would not have the same chance. Why add to the sibling rivalry like that? Those are the wounds that can last a lifetime for SOME kids who feel slighted and might resent the other for it. Just MY opinion, I realize others wil not feel this way. I have four close-in-age children. While each child is different and will not necessarily have the same needs as the others, I try very hard to OFFER the same opportunities to all of them. I know too many adult-siblings who have a lot of baggage from parents NOT doing this. (For example, when one child, usually the oldest, gets to run the family business.)

*I* would be FAR more tempted to encourage my son to do his best at the public school. he can still run track (for the other school, but that's no big deal) and play other sports, and can certainly really excel. Surely there is still a chance for ivy league if he goes there. Smetimes you have a BETTER chance as a big frish from a small pond, so to speak.

Brian sounds like he puts a temendous amount of pressure on himself. He would have a ****LOT**** more stress at a school where evryone else was a high-achiever as well. He also sounds like quite a planner. Surely he can manage to do well at public school while planning accordingly for increasing his chnces for getting into his college of choice. He might have much MORE of an opportunity to stand out and really shine and be noticed-- HIS achievement vs his school's achievement.

Just something to think about..... Sorry to be so long-winded!

    Bookmark   December 4, 2005 at 11:22PM
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That's a complicated situation with no simple answer. I'd certainly talk with Brian about it, since he's of an age where he is bound to have some very strong opinions about it, and his input and efforts will be needed to make whatever placement you decide on succeed. Here's my input, for what it's worth:

I used to do a fair amount of college recruiting for my alma mater, and parents frequently asked about the impact of tougher high schools and AP/GT classes on GPAs and how did the school's take those into consideration. The answer for this particular Ivy League school was that it was very aware which were the more challenging high schools in our city, and that they preferred a B in an AP or GT class to an A in a regular class because it showed more initiative and was much more reflective of how a student would do at that college. They did not automatically prefer a private school student to a public school student, given similar SATs, but noted that there were often considerably higher SATs at the private schools.

Being offered the chance to attend an elite private school -- assuming it is affordable -- is a real opportunity to get an outstanding education. Yes, by spending lots of time at the library, studying on the Internet, and really trying, a highly motivated student *can* get the same education in a public school. But consider the level of intellectual discussion that is likely to take place in typical classrooms in the two settings. The elite private school is far more likely to develop your son's intellect much more keenly, and this difference will pay off when applying for college, and very probably, throughout his entire life. There are doors an elite private school will open for him that will otherwise be closed. Not very 'democratic' perhaps, but nonetheless true.

Of course, it is not without cost. For a child who is a perfectionist, the increased competition and "relative failure" could be very painful. But that is a pain he is bound to face at some point in his life -- either here and now, or later, at college. Or perhaps, he will shield himself to the point where he never faces it, which is perhaps the worst outcome of all. At some point, he will not be the best and the brightest, and this school choice provides a perfect opportunity to discuss it and learn to deal with it.

And there is the inherent unfairness in not being able to provide the same opportunities to all of your children. Yes, that it unfair. But your son is not being offered this opportunity because he is your firstborn son or your favorite. It's because he is a gifted, hard-working student and athelete, and because he has worked hard and long to earn the opportunity. It is no more fair to deny him the opportunity he has earned, than it is to deny it to your other children. Perhaps they can earn it also.

When we were faced with a similar decision for our son (though he was much younger), I asked him to carefully consider each option, then to give me three good things and three bad things about each possibility. (I told him that if he couldn't come up with three good and three bad things about each option, then I would know he wasn't considering them thoughtfully and fairly, and that his opinions wouldn't be worth much weight.) It was geared to a younger child, but is still pretty effective today... I'd be curious to know what Brian thinks about the different options.

One other story, for what it's worth. A good friend of mine's son was accepted into a really-elite prep school in a nearby city and attended there for several years. (The kind of school some kids from other countries board at.) He is a bright, sociable young boy who was well-liked by his teachers and peers, and able, with lots of hard work, to do OK academically. But he wasn't very happy at this school and felt he didn't ever *really* fit in -- an odd thing for a boy with his strong social skills. Turns out, he was not rich enough to fit in comfortably with the really rich kids, and not so smart that he fit in with the scholarship kids. He kind of lived in limbo there until he asked his parents if he could go to the neighborhood school with his friends. He had to skip a whole grade, and still 'coast' for most of a year, but he's happier and didn't feel like a failure at all. (When he saw how far ahead he was of the other kids his age, it was easy to get over the academic bruised ego.)

Please let us know how things play out for you.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 12:48AM
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Lori: Are you able to visit classes and talk to teachers and counselors at all three schools, or is your son at least able to *shadow* another student? I would imagine the private schools have some type of program for this happening about now as well as information nights. Are there parents you can talk to who will tell you about school *warts*?

I live in a city where the upper middle class sends their kids to private school, and where elite HS tuition exceeds $22K. Dunno what we will do as we do not have upper middle class incomes! Anyway, around here the reputations of a few schools exceed the quality of the education. Not all schools with high achieving kids are pressure cookers. And some kids will do well wherever they go. Your son is probably one of them.

At both School A and B, school functions such as Back to School Night, PTA meetings, fundraisers, sports events, dances, and FRIENDS will be quite a hike away. Are you and Brian prepared for that?

I know someone who went to an elite private high school and an elite private college, and her younger sister went to a good but not great public high school and university. The younger sister recognized that she was not the driven, high achiever that her sister was and is, and said she never wanred to attend her sister's school. I don't know if your two younger kids are similar to their older brother, or have quite different talents. I have one kid, so I don't have to face this dilemma.

Finally, I absolutely agree with loriafopiano that financial aid is negotiable. $22K is *rack rate* -- like the published rate of hotels that very few people pay. I turned down the initial financial aid offer for my daughter. The admissions director called me back with a much higher offer which I tearfully turned down as again insufficient. I was fully prepared to send my daughter to the large, urban public school which admittedly has some violence problems but also has excellent teachers. I think the third offer was something like three times the amount of the first.

They did that for us, and my kid is no superstar. She is a great all around person with no behavioral or academic problems. I am pretty sure her old teacher and principal gave us good recommendations as a family who contributes its energies to the school community, and that factored into the school's evaluation process. You have leverage with School B. How would it look if it were also $4K -- assuming the school promises it for four years? (Be careful of teaser first year financial aid!)

You will come to the right conclusion for your son and your family. And if you find that you have made a mistake, a school transfer is not the end of the world.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 1:06AM
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Just wanted to add to a few things other posters have mentioned.

With regard to your saying you may not be able to do (education-wise) for all your children what you do for your son, I can understand that fear. But as you know all children are different. We offered our daughter the same opportunities as our son, yet she transferred out of private because it wasn't for her. I think it's important to acknowledge to the kids that you'll always try to do what's best for them. If you receive need-based financial aid for the first, it's most likely (all things being equal) you will for the rest. And if your son is accepted to the school due to his academic/athletic prowess and given scholarship for that, that is due to his achievements and the other children should know that and celebrate that with him. If your other children are not accepted or are not offered scholarship, then it's up to you and your husband to help develop their own special talents wherever they go.

Secondly, as far as the pressure is concerned. I agree your son will find far more pressure in the private school. But I would rather he get a wake-up call at this age that he is not always going to be the best and brightest than to wait until he goes off to college. He is young, but it's better he get an understanding of this now while he is around a loving and supportive family who can put things in perspective for him. Honestly, I have heard of far too many instances where students learn this hard reality when they've gone off to places like MIT (filled with brainiacs) and are devastated to not be the "best". I believe it's very important for him to learn that achievement and happiness in life are not directly related to earning all A's. Point out stories of people in your past, or even your families, that underscore this lesson for him.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 6:30AM
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One thought as far as "teaser" first-year higher financial aid: it is VERY real. Been there, done that, have the T-shirt as they say. And DO NOT assume that just b/c you get x amount for one child that you will get a comparable amount for child 2, even it is is "need-based"-- our best friends are facing a heart-wrenching decision b/c of that happening to them.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 7:22AM
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OMG, I could just cry at all the well-written, thought-provoking responses that everybody took the time to write. I knew I was coming to the right place.

I'm running late this morning (what else is new?), but I will respond on my lunch break.

I can't thank everybody enough for taking the time to read my long post and responding with such detailed answers. I'll be back in a bit....

    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 9:24AM
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Lori, your family has a lot of options, each with significant pros and cons. We've done the "where do we send them?" route for older kids already and will do the same this year for DD2. I agree wholeheartedly with Sweeby and loriafopiano about treating each child individually and doing what you can, when you can for each one. Frankly, I can't think of much worse fodder for sibling disharmony than one sib knowing s/he was unable to take an opportunity because the same might be unavailable to another sibling. A one-size-fits-all approach does not work with kids.

One thing KitchenObsessed touched on was the proximity, or lack thereof, of the private schools. It's not only a hike to attend, but remember most of his high school friends will not live anywhere near you. Your son will be socializing and spending time with kids about whom you know little, you won't know their parents or their values- this is something to think about. Do you have the time to devote to being active at the school and getting to know these people?

High school is as much about social growth and moral challenges and reinforcement as it is about academic strides and college preparation. It sounds like several visits to these schools are in order. You might even sit in on some PTO meetings and feel out the other parents.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 9:41AM
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This is great news and a fabulous opportunity for DS, I know you'll make the right decision. Maybe school B will call back with an offer you can't refuse?

Hey, is this the DS who's the big tipper???

Best wishes!!!

    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 10:03AM
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Hi Lori - what a wonderful boy you have and you must be so proud that he is being offered these wonderful opportunities. The thing that is really jumping out at me here is that the decision in itself on which school to attend is too much pressure for a 13 year old boy to make - no matter how advanced he is - he is just a boy. Yes, of course, his input is important but I would make it very clear to him that the final decision is OUT OF HIS HANDS. He has already told you that he wants to play sports that are in season - not just track. Pressure from coaches can be intense - and if that coach happens to be an Uncle - my feeling would be that it would create much discourse within the family. The commuting time would also be a burden the whole family would have to carry.

Best wishes in your decision making.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 10:21AM
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Double ditto what Maggie said. These are adult decisions.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 10:31AM
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I've been reading this thread with so much interest, and feel that you have gotten really wonderful thoughts and insight. I must say that I so totally agree with what Pecan Pie had to say about proximity, etc. High school, is of course, about college prep. but as Pecan said, so much growth takes place during this time -- the social part is a huge part !! My son was in private school K through 8. He got a fantastic education, and I thought for sure he'd go to private all the way through high school. He didn't want to -- and DH felt it was time for him to "experience" public school -- He did apply to the private H.S., didn't want to, DH didn't want him to -- I think they were both humoring me ! DS didn't get into the school -- they took in just ten freshmen that year out of the entire county with siblings getting first dibs. I look at it all now as a blessing in disguise. I wasn't thrilled AT ALL about the public high school he would be going to --
depressed was pretty much the key word, and this is considered one of the best public H.S.'s in the county.
I felt that he wouldn't be college-ready, that he wouldn't be getting the best education, and maybe it isn't up to the level of the private school I wanted him to attend. Bottom line however . . . is that he's never been happier, he really likes the school, he's doing really well -- has always taken Honors, and AP classes, is applying to 7 colleges, knows what he wants to do, and has absolutely become his own person being in an environment that he is very comfortable with !! He hated the label "going to private school" always felt different, actually didn't even tell people he went to private school ! -- For the first time, the kids that he goes to school with live around us --
Events at school are easy to attend -- we're four miles away vs. many more -- Until your son would be driving himself, it would be up to you or your husband to schlep him around, and a 35 minute to hour-plus drive certainly isn't what a five minute drive is. Throw into that all of his sports activities -- In my mind, I can see that your son being in one of the private schools would take up more than his share of your time -- and your other kids might suffer in the time dept. Another thought, although you still have a few years to go . . . . WHEN your son starts driving . . . . I notice that you're from Rhode Island, and I would imagine you have some if-fy weather conditions at times -- Fast forward to the times when your DS would be driving the 35 miles or more -- It's heart-stopping enough when they get on the road -- but that kind of commute every day !!

You mentioned that your son is a high achiever, puts pressure on himself, has migraines at least once a week -
As other people have mentioned, the pressure in a private school like the ones you mentioned could be tremendous --
If, at 13, he is showing signs of such stress, it seems like he would really be thrown into more. And mixed into all that, is if he would be pressured to do a sport that he didn't really want to do . . . .

Another side to the coin . . . as others have mentioned, find out what DS REALLY thinks he wants to do -- visit each of the schools more than once -- see what the kids are like, get him to really talk about it .. Have him take a look at the cars in the student parking lot -- no kidding !!! New Beamers, Escalades, etc. etc. . . .

Well, I'm kind of rambling .. lots to touch on -
Bottom line, no one can tell you what to do ..
just follow your heart, your gut instincts .. You'll know the best thing for your son ..

Good luck and good thoughts to you, Lori. It all is so hard sometimes, isn't it?? We only want the best for our kids.


    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 10:59AM
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When I mentioned the cars in the parking lot . . it was definitely the negative side of the coin . . . Hope that came across that way . . . That was a huge thing with DS when he saw the parking lot . . not the real world to him !! So, as good as the education is there . . DS felt the school just wasn't him at all .. He's VERY unmaterialistic, not to say that everyone that goes to that school is materialistic, but with a "moneyied" school -- you're sometimes contending with kids who have way more money at their disposal than need be, cars that some people never drive in a lifetime, vacations that are very luxurious and exotic, sometimes parents who aren't there physically, so "compensate" their absence with an open checkbook .... I don't mean to be stereotypical AT ALL re: an expensive private school, but these are things to consider.

And I do think that you need to really consider your son's opinion on these schools. He's the one that will be going there. If you and your husband should decide on one or the other of the privates, thinking it's in his best interest, and your son absolutely, absolutely hates it and doesn't want to go there . . . well ... the best school in the world would become a moot point. At thirteen, they're so much in the business of finding out who they are, who they want to be, they feel already the pressure of "getting into college" . . . etc. etc. In my opinion,the FINAL decision should belong to you and your husband, but with a great amount of input from your son . . .

Well, again, I'm rambling, and I really need to get going here --

And all this being said, if it turns out that the private school is the best thing for him, then that will become a fantastic opportunity !!

    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 11:24AM
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I am an alumna admissions interviewer for my (Ivy League) alma mater. I attended a public HS and both of my children attend(ed) a private one. My son attends a good but not particularly selective public university; my daughter will probably do the same.

I firmly believe that, while it is true that many private schools send a disproportionate number of students to "top" colleges (more about that later), it is not because they receive a superior education at a private high school. For many students, the same combination of smarts and motivation that landed them in an elite private school will likewise lead to acceptance at selective colleges. Private schools have a high number of students with parents who are alumni of these colleges, which also helps (more than you may realize). Furthermore, these parents, on average, are wealthier than their public school counterparts, and are better able to affford private tutors, SAT prep classes, private college acceptance consultants, and generous donations to college endowment funds. I'm not saying these things are necessary for admission to an elite college; I'm saying that, all other things being equal, the education itself is not a huge factor in the acceptance rate differential between public and private high schools. In fact, I can't say that the actual education my kids receive(d) at their private school is any better than what I got, or what they would have gotten, at the public high school (we had other reasons for sending them there). If your public school has a full complement of AP offerings, your son can probably be as challenged and stimulated there as anywhere.

It is important to recognize that Ivy League and other "highly ranked" colleges turn down many, many highly qualified applicants, from both public and private schools. They also accept some students who ostensibly do not have the credentials they are usually looking for. It is really impossible to predict who will and will not be accepted. Parents who pressure, or even encourage, their children to make acceptance to an Ivy League or other elite college their overriding goal throughout high school are not doing them any favors, IMO. These kids are under a tremendous amount of pressure (whether applied internally or externally) and the consequences of the stress can be considerable. I would encourage you to encourage your son to think well beyond the Ivy League. I can honestly say that these schools, like private high schools, do not generally provide superior intellectual training (although I will grant you that often their financial and material resources are more extensive). It may be true that their graduates are more likely to advanced degrees, be leaders in their professions, and have higher average incomes, but again I attribute this not to their Ivy League education but to the same combination of qualities that got them to that college in the first place. A student with the same intelligence and initiative, who attends a a good but less selective college (and there are HUNDREDS of them out there), is just as likely to get an excellent education and be able to achieve his or her life goals.

Sorry to be so long-winded. I guess this is all by way of saying, whatever decision you and your son make, I hope it will be for a reason other than "to get into an Ivy League school." Is being THE high school to go to, in and of itself, a reason you feel comfortable with? Where will he feel like he best fits in? Does one school offer some SPECIFIC thing that the other schools lack that he wants to take advantage of? It sounds like your son has a tremendous amount going for him and that he'll thrive wherever he ends up.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 11:44AM
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This is the last post for now, I promise. . . .
When I was talking about cars in the parking lot, and what it may represent (a broken record, I am . . .) I was more referring to School B, than School A. With a $22,000/yr tuition . . . way different than an $8,000/yr tuition -- The school we'd been looking at was I think about $17,000 a year, so I'm kind of putting this school and School B in the same cart -- For the most part, very moneyied . . .
kids from all socio-economic backgrounds, to be sure -
but for the most part, a pretty moneyied track . . . so there is a lot to consider re: lifestyles, etc.
There are private high schools, and there are private high schools . . .

The college application process is a very leveling playing field . . esp. if your son knows the direction he wants to go. I honestly don't think my son is in any different spot now than he would have been having gone to the private school. His interests have always been the same, he's known for a long time what he's wanted to do, so the choice of colleges would have been the same, no matter what.
In going to a college info. night, the person giving the presentation, said that so many times, a student that's gone to a public school, and is not in the horrendous competion coming out of an exclusive private school will have just as good an opportunity, if not better ..
Of course, this was a person in the public school system, talking to parents in the public school system . . but I do think there's validity to what he said ..

Point of the story is . . the high school is not the defining thing in getting into a college, it may help, but bottom line, it's the student and their record . .

And on that, I really need to go because my clock has totally run out !!!!!!!
Hope all this has made at least a little bit of sense . .

    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 12:00PM
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susannfp, what an amazingly nuanced post. Very informative and helpful for any of us with children.

I do agree with KCC on the "cars in the parking lot" issue. Been there, done that. My parents were very middle class and my private school was decidedly not. I was exposed to the "best of the best" very early and as a result that mindset has always been part of my goals. I don't mean ostentatiousness -- it just isn't in me -- but I have always seen money as a means to get what I want, and I certainly learned more about what is out there, and what I "wanted to have one day," than I would have at a public school.

On the flip side, my education was unbelievable and has served me very very well. I was pretty much immune to exterior academic pressure, and I always knew where I would be going to college. My parents didn't push me since I pushed myself. But I saw a lot of kids who were pushed and pushed and pushed. That's not pretty.

You just have to look at your boy's temperment and -- I agree with the others on this point -- decide for him what is best. And for your other children, too. I know someone who 45 years ago didn't get to go to college because her older brother went to Yale, and she's still mad about it. Not that you would do that, of course, but sibling jealousy is something to consider.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 1:40PM
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Susanfnp, well said. Sharon, that rots for your friend. My mother is still wincing when she thinks about the fact that her only sibling, her brother, inherited "the house and all its contents." It's a huge house, three stories, in Philadelohia in an incredible neighborhood. Her grandparents built it. I don't think we should limit our children, in that if one of them earns something then GREAT, don't stop them from getting it-- BUT there is a limit to what we can finance. Someone can "earn" the right to PAY for a lot of incredible experiences. However, if paying for whatever it is for one child means that even if the second or third or fourth child earns it, we can't afford to pay for it, then I think it is not a good idea.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 5:31PM
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My biggest concern would be that both schools are too focused on your DS running track. What happens if he decides to use his talents elsewhere or has a career ending injury? Can he still attend? What happens to the scholarships?
Let's say neither School A or B were in the picture. How would you feel about his education? Do you think his growth would be stunted attending the local HS and possibly AP courses elsewhere?
Your situation is very much like what's happening at DD's gymnastics classes. They're being tested right now and the coaches are eyeing the girls with the right physique and natural talent for the team. That means 4X a week practice and traveling to meets 2X a month. They're 7 yo. It's an honor and honestly many of us have dreams of college scholarships, but the girls doesn't care. DD just wants to run around in a shiny leotard.
Don't get blinded by the honor or the pride, focus on the reality of the situation. Of course education is more important than sports, but the pressure to excel is the same.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2005 at 10:23AM
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I usually just lurk around here, but since I am from RI and have sent 2 kids to private schools here, I just had to pipe in. First of all you have gotten some excellent advice here.
The socio-economic thing that occurs at the "elite" private schools in the city is real. My daughter attended one of these and there was definitely some trying to "keep up with the Jones'" going on on her part. This probably happens more with the girls than boys, I guess, until the car thing comes along. I was amazed at what some parents are willing to spend on designer items for teenage girls. That said, I feel my daughter received an excellent education with a LOT of individual attention. She is quiet and at that point was lacking in self confidence, and I am sure she is a stronger and more confident young woman today because of the nurturing and encouragement she got at her school. For her, we felt it was the best option, as she would have slipped through the cracks at the public high school. She now attends a mini-ivy college and is thriving. She even recently told me she is so grateful for the opportunity she had to attend that high school.
My son currently attends what I'm pretty sure is the all boy school you're thinking of. We have been very pleased with the education he is getting so far, although not quite as individualized as the school my daughter attended, they don't seem to miss a thing. It seems to be an excellent college prep program. That said, my son wants to leave! He misses his friends in town terribly, and although he doesn't hate the school, he isn't happy. We are wrestling with this decision. Our public high school is rated tops in the state, although having moved here from another area, I find the schools here a little lacking. I digress, what I feel is that he can get just as good an education in town, as long as he puts forth his best effort. That's what really counts, isn't it?
If you let your son attend either of these schools, consider first that it requires a big commitment from you and the rest of the family as well. Although we have busing to the schools, it doesn't allow for sports after school, and I can tell you that I HATE driving to these schools, especially at 4:30 or 5:00 in the afternoon. It prevents my third child from having friends over after school as well. The likelihood of your son having friends all over the state is also something to consider, I only allow long distance visits to be sleepovers, after meeting the parents. Believe me, you will want to know the parents of your son's friends in high school more than ever!
Anyway, I don't mean to discourage you, these are wonderful opportunities that we decided to allow our kids to take part in, with no regrets. Good luck in your decision!

    Bookmark   December 6, 2005 at 11:19AM
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I want to thank everybody again for the great responses. Its been an incredible help being reminded of things that I would never have thought of (cars in the parking lot!). More on that later.

We had a long talk with Brian last night about being the big fish/small fish. His theory is that as a small fish, he can still grow and improve. I learn something new from him every day!

He also really stressed that he wants to play more than one sport. He agreed heÂd look at School B on January 8 at their open house, but he was leaning more towards wanting to stay at the public school. I must say, I felt a bit relieved because the pressures concern me. The story of the boy who committed suicide scares me. I would never try to put that pressure on my child. IÂd rather him not attend college at all and pick up trash all day if thatÂs what makes him happy (no offense to any trash collectors out there! ;)

When he first started in the AP program he hated it. I mean HATED it! We finally realized it wasnÂt the class that he hated but the atmosphere. None of his friends were in his classes and he didnÂt have anything in common with those that were there. His after-school interests were sports. Theirs were computers, etc. He works hard, but he plays hard too, and I think thatÂs great. Finally another baseball player got transferred into the class and Brian suddenly loves it. Friends and the social part of it is important.

As an interesting side note, my second sonÂs teacher called last night and wants to recommend him for AP. Now I KNOW IÂm too poor for this. LOL

I believe the 22k is highly negotiable. They told us they would "do whatever it takes" to get him there. Brian joked about how heÂs looking forward to having his own limo pick him up every morning. Smart@ss. LOL

We wonÂt rule the private schools out yet, but as of now, I think staying home is the best fit. WeÂll look at all our options further, though.

IÂve been PTO president for six years and itÂs important to me that I can stay involved. That would be difficult in any town other than the one we live in since I work full time (20 miles from home, in the opposite direction of the schools).

I agree with the final decision being ours. But I wonÂt put my son through something I know he doesnÂt want if thereÂs another viable option. Like I said above, I believe being happy in life every day is worth more than any paycheck/degree/job you can have (not that they canÂt be a great start to happiness!)

IÂm also seeing that a well-rounded student has so many doors open to them. The colleges seem to like that type of student almost as much as the 4.0 GPA student. IÂm certainly not hooked on sending him Ivy League, but when the time comes, weÂll do the same weÂre doing now - weight all the options.

Angc, you make a great point too, about his health and what would happen if he didnÂt play sports anymore. I know thatÂs something to consider. It happened with my oldest step-son, he was given a scholarship to college, then got hurt and we really had to struggle to deal with the change. But if he can play a sport in high school that will allow a college scholarship, IÂm all for that. DH went to college on a full scholarship and his athletic abilities opened so many wonderful doors for him (he met me!!!) ;)

As far as a Beamer in my driveway, it ainÂt happening unless I hit the lottery. My son is just going to have to live with being dropped of in a Camry (unless that limo thing works out ;)

Earlybird, thank you so much too for responding. IÂd love to talk more if youÂre interested in emailing me. I believe we live across the river from each other, possibly.

Oh, and BillÂbeing from where weÂre fromÂI know one of the KennedyÂs, and believe me, my son is no ________Kennedy!!! LOL

Pauline, Yes, he IS the big tipper! LOL

To those who apologized for being long-windedÂOMG, are you crazy? All the comments have been so, SO incredibly helpful. Thank you for taking so much of your time to respond.

I love this place! :)

    Bookmark   December 6, 2005 at 1:26PM
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I'd like to echo what earlybird said. DS is currently in a private preschool (he'll stay for K next year and then transfer to public) that goes thru 3rd grade. Altho it's only 15 min. away, there are no kids from our part of town that go there, so no carpools for any events, and all the birthday parties are 1/2 hour away. It's hard for me to take him to after-school activities b/c they're planned near the school and I have to be home for older DS when he gets off the school bus from public school (in 2nd grade). Older DS also attended that private school thru Kindergarten, and it was the right decision b/c of full-day K (2 teachers to 12 kids), and it gave him a great foundation. In our excellent public school district, he still started out ahead of many others, esp in math. I see the same progress with our younger DS. However, socially, older DS is much happier in public school, where there are simply more kids to choose from to be friends with and more varied activities offered (at least in our case). I think younger DS will have a similar experience when we move him in 1st grade. And, there's a lot to be said for attending the neighborhood school, esp. if it's a good school that's supported by an active PTA. It's also worth thinking about how you feel about the parents you've met at those private schools--do you have things in common with them? Are you interested in seeing them socially?

Also, tuition isn't the only expense at the private school. Every year brings the fall fundraiser, fall fair, capital campaign, and spring auction to name a few. The auction at DS' school costs $75/ticket, and that's before you bid on anything. It's very apparent to me that those who contribute regularly also get what they want. Whereas, in a public school, it's your volunteer time that's most valued.

Both DH and I attended public schools; DH went to Ivy League college and grad schools, and I attended state college and grad schools. We're very comfortable in the public school environment. Nothing's perfect, but we chose our house based on the school district, and we've not been disappointed. Our high school is about the best in the state (and, yes, there are BMWs in the parking lot, but my kid's not getting one!).

    Bookmark   December 6, 2005 at 1:37PM
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I have long heard that education is what the student makes of it. That said, what the student makes of the education also depends on the environment he/she is in.

I have nothing against private schools, and would definitely use one if we were in a situation where our public schools were "bad." I don't like the assumption that some have that private schools are always "better." This is not true. It is some of the time, but certainly not all of the time.

Some things to consider - private schools are not required to have credentialed teachers. (That doesn't mean that many have them, they just aren't required to have them.) Private schools are held accountable to nobody. (That doesn't mean that many don't hold themselves accountable to existing standards or to their own high standards.) Private schools are not held accountable under Bush's No Child Left Behind. They do not have to show a measured level of improvement each year. (That doesn't mean that their students don't improve, however.)

We live in an area where the public school district is very, very good, so my kids attend public school. If we didn't live in an area with high performing schools, my kids would probably attend private school. So I think what I'm saying is that there is no clear cut answer to this for everyone - it depends on where you live and your kid.

I'm a teacher myself with a K-12 credential and a masters in education. I taught in inner city schools (elementary), and I'll be honest that while the schools I taught in were filled with excellent teachers, I would not want my kids to attend those schools. Yes, education is what the student makes of it, BUT - it wasn't the environment nor the kids I want my kids influenced by. When we bought our house we made sure to buy in an area with a known high-performing district. (Capistrano Unified School District.)

Hope that makes sense!

    Bookmark   December 6, 2005 at 1:41PM
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Lori, glad to hear Brian has a sense of humor! This will serve him well wherever he goes, and for years to come.

The decision-making process will be a huge opportunity for everyone, it always is.

Years ago my mother startled me by asking my thoughts as she and my father considered helping my youngest sibling with college expenses. I was the oldest of six and had paid my own way through college and grad school through work, loans, and scholarships. I told her I wanted my brother to have every opportunity, and that his experience was unrelated to my own. It was another year, and all the pieces were in a different place on the game board. It just didn't occur to me to compare as there was literally nothing to compare. I still think that.

Today my daughter attends public schools and is considering the Ivy League institution where my husband and I met in grad school. This startled me when I first heard her talk about it, she's Brian's age. We're making high school decisions as well and I hope to help my daughter look around at a larger world. As others are saying, it's just not as simple as "private" or "public." It's complicated, and far more so than when I was walking this path as a teen. The way we approach learning and opportunity is so much more important than the labels on the doors we open, or pass by.

That said, there are glorious opportunities behind some of these doors. As in so many childhood stories, sometimes the doors with treasures are clearly marked, sometimes they are clearly not.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2005 at 2:16PM
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Education is only part of the experience of high school. I have great high school memories because I had a great group of friends. My sister had a very unhappy high school experience because she didn't fit in. Same school, 1 year apart.

This may already have been voiced above, but a few additional things to consider, which I have seen happen to other people, are the lifestyle issues and the donation issues. Specifically, will your child feel left out if they cannot afford to do the things their classmates do? I can remember being the only one of my friends in (public) high school who didn't get to go to Europe senior year (in my case it was my mother worrying rather than money, either way, I was left out). I've seen the activities and things friends' kids want. Will your child feel left out if they can't go skiing in the Alps over Christmas break? Will there be an issue if he has a beater car rather than a BMW? Another issue which I was a little surprised by was the "donation" issue. A good friend of mine has her only child in a $30k per year high school. They can easily afford it. However, the school also expects a sizable donation every year, and it keeps going up (he is in his third year). Think thousands - extra. They also do expensive things to raise money for the school, like auctions.

Regarding treating kids "the same". It is very difficult. My parents didn't pay (or even help pay) for my law school because my mother didn't think they should do something for me that they were not going to do for my sister. But they weren't going to do the same for her because she wasn't going to go - she dropped out of college. I didn't argue with them about it at the time. In fact, it wasn't until after I graduated that my father even knew they didn't help. He assumed they had. My mother handled the money. So now all the money they saved my father is spending on his chi-chi girlfriend (my mother passed away). I have to admit, it irks me now. But it wouldn't have bothered me if my parents had used the money together.

My in laws took the "equal" thing to a ridiculous extreme. DH was the "perfect" child. He was the oldest, and was a great student, athlete, and was very handsome (voted "best body" in high school, which we have a good giggle over). His parents wouldn't even give him praise unless they could give the same praise to his 2 younger (and less stellar) siblings. One story he mentions is when he came home with all As in all AP classes. His mother said something like, "well, Sally and Billy tried very hard to". My MIL was an early example of the dangers of praising trying as much as succeeding. His siblings learned they would get as much credit for failing as DH would get for succeeding. No one lived up to their potential as a result.

I guess my point is this, you can't treat kids equally, and you can't be perfectly fair. Every kid is different.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2005 at 4:54PM
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One other thing I meant to suggest...when my dd was looking at the private schools, she obviously shadowed someone for a day. At some of the schools, she spent half the day with someone in the grade she was applying for and half the day with someone in the grade she was currently in. This enabled her to meet the kids in her own grade and get a feel for the "chemistry".
Feel free to e-mail me with any questions, as well. Good luck.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2005 at 6:33AM
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Just thought I'd give an update.

We've pretty much eliminated the school my BIL works at, mainly for location reasons, but also because I feel my son will be too pressured there from him, as much as my BIL means well. If it was on this side of the city, we'd consider it more, but 2 1/2 hours of travel a day is just too much in my mind.

We heard from School B. Apparently they break down their aid into three categories: financial need, education/grades, and extracurricular activities (for him, sports)

So far it looks like based on our finances, they will offer him somewhere in the range of 15k (nice to be poor sometimes, LOL). We still need to hear from the academic portion for aid, then the athletic portion.

The more I talk with different people, I'm getting the message that Brian can go for next to nothing. I know of one child that attends that pays $500 a year. Brian's grades are better and Brian has accomplished more athletically, although I think the other boy helps the school meet a minority requirement. And the other kid is a super, super kid, well-rounded, polite, so I think that has to count for something in admissions too.

We looked at the catalogs last night and Brian was very excited that they offer Japanese as a foreign language (strange kid), and he seemed very interested in the campus and some of the other opportunities he wouldn't get at our public school. We did a pro and con list this morning, and it came out pretty even.

I thought we were staying home, but now I'm still very confused about the whole thing. We'll go to the open house and the interviews and see if that sways us, but still the biggest factor will be the money.

And I thought picking out my sink was a tough decision!

    Bookmark   December 15, 2005 at 11:19AM
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I spent a good bit of my time at my private school on scholarship. And regardless of some of the long-term effects of not living in the "real" world, it was wonderful for me. So if you can do it for almost nothing, and it's a good fit for your son, then I would say go for it. Think of the doors it could open.

OTOH, see if you can find out whether he can expect that kind of aid throughout high school. If it's a one-year bait and switch (not that I'm saying it is), then it's not such a good deal.

They must have a very nice endowment to be offering so much aid! It's a really wonderful opportunity and worth taking seriously.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2005 at 11:43AM
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If the school has that much financial aid to offer, the students are likely to come from more economically diverse backgrounds than if it didn't. True, there may be some kids with BMWs, but it sounds like a fair number probably don't.

Do they make you fill out financial aid forms that are worse than preparing taxes, esp. because they ask for different information? I'm grumpy because I had to submit my application today and my computer is too old and inadequate to load TurboTax anymore. Plus, our financial situation has changed so much, I know I could be $5-10K off. Whine. I guess it is good practice for college.

It is after 11 pm, and DD, a 6th grader, had so much homework today that she is finally going to bed. She seems to be challenged, engaged, and excited about her education at her private school, but I think she would be getting more sleep if she were attending the local middle school. I know she likes being in an environment where all or nearly all the girls are interested in learning and take their school work seriously, but I also see a lot of internal pressure.

This year, we received substantial financial aid and were promised it would remain at the same level. I guess this spring we will find out for sure. DH has put in so much volunteer time (including removing a dead rat inside a wall!) that he has special parking privileges, so I will be upset and angry if the amount goes down.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2005 at 2:25AM
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Lori: Just checking back on which school your family chose, and how your son is doing. We actually received MORE financial aid this year, and our daughter has a lot less homework. So now I'm stressing about high school, a year ahead of time, wondering if I can swing the impossible of getting an inter-district transfer and if kiddo would ultimately be happy there. Academics at the local high school are supposed to be okay, but the administration is in complete disarray with no principal, 2 of 3 VPs new, the most recent course catalog available is from 2002.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2006 at 2:56PM
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Wow, a lot's happened since that original post!

First, the tuition at the private school, where BIL works, didn't turn out to be what we thought it was going to be. Misunderstanding on my part, but we didn't get a discount we thought we might.

My son was accepted at both schools. The more elite, very prestigious school offered him nothing. The coach from that school has since moved on. There is no way we could have afforded the 22k. He was happy to be accepted but at the time, I think he was pretty disappointed he wasn't going. I think they led us on about financial aid. We made it clear from the beginning we couldn't afford it and they kept saying they'd make it work.

Brian chose the less elite of the two private schools. Although we didn't get the financial help we thought we would, we'll find the money somehow. He loves it there.

It's funny because BIL kept very quiet during the whole process, never pushed us at all like I thought he would. When I asked his opinion, all he'd say was, "go to the open house." Now that my son's there, he's very supportive of him.

Brian will run year round for the school and doesn't miss any of his other sports. He loves the school and he loves the athletic portion of it. In fact, he was crowned freshman state champion this week for cross country. While we know we're stretched financially here, we also know it's a good investment. His grades are great. His average so far is a low A, high B, and he's fine with that. He's working very hard. He's in all honors courses. It's a heavy load. I'm actually pretty proud of him that he's accepted it's okay to not have a perfect average. Some things still come fairly easy to him; others, he works really hard.

Frankly, I don't know how he's doing it. He's up at 5:30 every morning and leaves the house at 6:15 (so cute in his sport coat and tie! LOL) We drive him 20 minutes where he meets somebody who drives him the rest of the way. He's not home until almost 6 at night, sometimes even later. Dinner, homework, bed. Studying in the car.

He went from having migrains 2-3 times a week, to NONE since school started. I can't understand that except he's running every day and I believe the added exercise is helping. Whatever the reason, this has been one of the biggest bonuses.

There is not a question in my mind that we made the right choice. We'll find the money somewhere. In fact, we're hoping our 6th grader will want to go there for HS.

My best advice - follow your heart. We knew after the open house and Brian's shadowing of a student, this was a good fit, and it is!

    Bookmark   October 27, 2006 at 2:35AM
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I'm just browsing while eating lunch, and read your latest entry. I'm so glad you found a school that fits your son. But what really struck me is the fact that he is not having migraines anymore! My daughter has daily headaches and we are still working on their cause(s); I will definitely talk to her about what I've read. I know you can't say for sure that it is the running that has chased them away, (no pun intended,) but it's a good thought. Thanks for posting.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2006 at 4:40PM
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A bit off topic but I wanted to chime in that my son also gets childhood migraines. Changing his diet to a migraine-safe diet made all the difference in the world. No chocolate, no MSG, nothing with nitrates, sulfites, soy, no citrus, etc. It has made a huge difference. He's really good about it - he's learned the hard way too many times.

If you want to know more about the foods to avoid, look up tyramine-free diet. Tyramine is an enzyme in certain foods that migraine sufferers can't process, and so they get sick. If you avoid the foods high in tyramine, you can avoid the migraines. I get migraines too so he and I are in it together, which helps him too.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2006 at 9:09PM
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Also noted with interest the migraine part of the post. DS had migraines during middle school- disappeared in high school . I guarantee it was friendlier, less (socially) stressful environment. He watched his diet carefully, but the ability to come into his own athletically and socially - not just intellectually -was the key in his case.

DD2 had stomachaches in middle school, and crippling diarrhea. She's not a complainer (played in soccer finals without telling us she'd broken a wrist rather than miss the finals!!) and we exhausted every test imaginable. Diagnosis- nervous stomach. We were terrified that high school would be more stressful and missing classes is just NOT possible. However, all has been fine and not a tummyache since that last day of middle school. The b*tchy little girls in her class went to different high schools- she started fresh at her new school and loved it-she has soared!

The social 'fit' was the kicker for our kids. It is 'cool' to be nice in (their) high school. Middle school is so miserable anyway.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2006 at 12:09PM
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