First off our entire family are big believers in the public school system (for UK readers public schools are what you would call state schools. To confuse matters further a private school is what you would call a public school…). Anyway we are firm believers that as a community we fully believe that local schools improve by having community involvement and that it’s a civic responsibility to be involved in improving the quality. We have lived in areas before where the local schools have gone downhill because all the “rich kids” were going to private school and bypassing the public school.
Saying all that, our son has had issues with traditional school systems. He has mild ADHD and doesn’t focus well. Associated with that he doesn’t like sitting still for an hour or more just writing or working on topics. As such we have always thought that a Montessori method school would fit his learning style more.
For those not familiar with Montessori it’s a system that at first seems to be highly unstructured, but in reality has a great deal of structure. The children drive their learning by picking and choosing what they want to work on. It allows them to pursue their own interests. They are also empowered to organize their own small scale field trips and outings. Basically if they want to do a research project on say puffer fish, then they can.
It’s a great system for the right sort of child. It fits our son down to a T. However it doesn’t come cheap.
Private schooling can cost at least $10,000 a year and in some cases much more. Our son’s school is basically 15% of our entire budget for the year. This is a huge dent in our planning and our single biggest line item for the year, and we have thought long and hard about whether this is the right thing to do.
In the end we decided it was important for several reasons. First of all we cannot deny our kids the best future we can give them just because we have retired early. We never want them to feel resentment because we have chosen to retire early. Secondly this won’t be forever, in a couple of years he might well move to local public school and the cost goes away. It takes some budgeting to provide the money, and we need to ensure we are selling funds off at the right time through the year in order to have the liquidity available when the fees are due.
It’s important to do what’s right for the whole family and critical that there is no sense that FIRE’ing is a selfish act; the perception to the children could easily be that we sit at home all day doing nothing, so it’s essential to do the right thing.