The Privilege of School Choice

In Parenting by Caris Adel6 Comments


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I don’t talk much about the fact that we educate our kids at home for lots of reasons, but one of them is I’m very aware that it’s a privilege.  Choosing to use that privilege, especially now that we’re in a new community where the choice takes on greater socio-economic implications, makes me uncomfortable.

So I don’t want to talk about it.  I’d rather talk about rich white people who go to rich white schools and the racist history behind them.

I’d rather talk about how these academies advertise at black churches to raise their diversity rate, as if that’s all they need to do to be let off the segregation hook.

Some of those schools lost their tax-exempt status in the 80s because they only admitted white kids.  When that happened, donations and enrollment dropped way off and some schools closed.  So now they make their non-discrimination clause readily apparent on websites and fliers.  But if you read their history on their websites, you’d think the financial downturn was because of the ‘financial crunch of the 1980s’, and the fact that enrollment increased was because of an added preschool and daycare.

There’s no mention of race or discrimination in their history.  It’s as if the past is really in the past and nothing matters except the now.


I grew up as the class of 2000.  The new millennial generation.  We were born to change the future.  The church was only so happy to go along with that trend.  ‘This generation, God, this generation is going to bring revival,’ was prayed over me, countless times.

Is that true?  Were we raised to make the world better?  Are we raising our kids to change the world?  Does what we do now matter to the future?  Or are we merely raising, as some homeschoolers I know believe, martyrs for Jesus because of how corrupt our society is becoming?  Are we just raising our kids to be good, wealthy, moral citizens who breed more wealthy citizens?

If the world we grew up in formed us, and we spend so much time and money on creating a specific world for our kids to grow in, then why is it so hard to imagine that older histories changed the world in ways that still affect us?


I do wonder if someday I will discover my kids behind something similar to such worthy efforts as Homeschoolers Anonymous or Swan Children.  Of course I’m worried that my kids will grow up and regret the kind of life they had.  I worry that I will have failed them in certain areas, that they will grow up illiterate or be the biggest culprit of #wordcrimes.

But how many parents who send their kids to private schools – or even white majority public schools, as mine was – worry about the hazards of growing up cocooned in privilege?  

I, we, made the decision when the kids were little that we weren’t going to sacrifice them on the altar of testing, schedules, and a weak curriculum.  I read The Well-Trained Mind and Diane Ravitch and knew what I wanted to give my kids.

And I’ve fallen way short of my ideals.  But on my good days I remind myself that my kids have had an amazing childhood and they love learning.  So I guess I could do worse.

But I worry.  And I worry about what other people think.  I worry what it looks like when my neighbors put their kids on busses and we are at home, when I know they are getting shuttled off to abysmal schools.

I worry about the effects of my privilege on others, and on my kids.

I am uncomfortable with talking about choosing to use a privilege instead of opting out of it.  So I would rather point the finger at people who use more privilege than I do, who build that systemic wall higher than I do, because I don’t know how to sit in the tension of my own choices without feeling guilty.

Some of us have choices, and sometimes we make them for valid reasons, and sometimes it is for selfish or fearful reasons and maybe there should be a tension there – a wrestling with the how we live and why.

Having weighed and reweighed our decision and having still made the same choice, the only way I can handle the discomfort is to see privilege as a resource.  And like all resources, it needs to be stewarded wisely.

Is it possible to opt-out of the local school system without opting out of your community?  Is it possible to spend tens of thousands of dollars on an education and still know how to be with, not over, those who aren’t as lucky?  Is it possible for a historically racist community to be known for diversity and maybe even learn to be bi-cultural?

I’d like to think so.

I’m hoping that the slow drip of experiences in being a minority helps to make up for the experiences my kids are missing out on by not going to school.  I hope that somehow I can instill some of what I’m learning about race and privilege and history into my kids.  I don’t know.

Maybe my kids will turn out no different than the academied kids.  Maybe the academies will never dig deep to understand why they are 95% white.  Maybe they will.  We can’t predict the future,  we can only do our best to shape it.

There is not, as far as I’m aware, a large population, with books and churches and resources, of people who have chosen to steward their privilege on behalf of others.  I don’t know what it will look like 15 years down the road for homeschooled white kids to have grown up in a majority black community.

But what I do know is the first step in dealing with privilege is acknowledging you have it and looking at the reasons why.  Denying it or whitewashing the history, pretending the generations behind us haven’t affected who we are or the worlds we inhabit only insures that our children will continue to be formed in the ways of the sins of the past.

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  • Karissa Knox Sorrell

    What a transparent post! Thank you for this. I think about this stuff alot. We also exercise privilege because we send our kids to private school. We are only able to do so because my husband works at said private school and we get half off tuition. I have worked in public education for 14 years, so there WAS a public/private discussion right before our oldest started kindergarten. We ended up going with private because we felt like the academics would be stronger, the kids would have more opportunities (for things like field trips) and well – honestly – we get 50% off. We couldn’t do it otherwise.

    Although their school is fairly diverse, I do think we sacrifice opportunities for our kids to become friends with kids who are unlike them – kids to speak another language at home, or live in govt housing, or follow a different religion. I saw this when I took my kids to a carnival at one of the public schools I work with – lots of English Learners – and my 5 yo son said, “Is this a brown school?” It was his way of describing the Latino and Egyptian faces he was seeing, but of course, I was suddenly aware of how sheltered my kids have been. Like you, I want to figure out how to reconcile all this and give my kids opportunities to get to know a variety of kinds of people.

    On the other side of the coin, they attend school with some families who are far more wealthy than we are, and I have shed tears about having to “keep up with the Joneses,” and having to give the school MORE money for things like matchy-matchy costumes for big performances that mean so much to some of those parents. It seems like every time I turn around there is something else to buy for school (on top of tuition) and I just can’t always keep up.

    I think the important thing is that you recognize this struggle and strive to do something about it and not just accept it. You encourage me to do so, too.

  • Daniel McDonald

    I think you have touched upon something vital by recognizing that choosing to do what you think best for your children’s education provides them both with resources and privilege. A knife can be used to cut a bad piece out of an apple or harm someone, and our advantages can be a resource to be shared or a privilege to take unfair advantage of others. If we limit this conversation by some sort of accepted lifestyle we miss the point that each of us has advantages that can either be used as resources to bless others or as the building blocks to what is truly evil about what we know as privilege. Each of us needs to ask ourselves “What are my gifts, advantages, and resources? Am I using them to bless others or to push me and those I prefer to further advantage and we need to ask these things seriously. Thanks for this, I think you have helped us all to think about our own unique situations.

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