Allergy Parenting: Public School vs. Private School vs. Homeschooling

The debate continues. Here are the scoresheets so far…

1st place: Homeschooling. Having total control over where the kids are and what they are eating/touching pretty much puts the nut-free bubble around the Morgans.
2nd place: Private School. We’ve found a couple of completely nut-free campuses here in Salt Lake City, which means we wouldn’t have to worry as much about lunch contamination, hand washing, accidental snack poisonings, etc.
3rd place: Public School. I’ve talked to many (many!) public schools throughout the state and the plans range from nut-free classrooms to nut-free lunchroom tables to simply keeping an eye on the kid with allergies. I’d have to file disabled child paperwork every year and work with the administration/teachers. Not impossible, but not completely safe either.

1st place: Private School. Very consistent approval ratings and high test scores from the private schools we’ve looked at.
2nd place: Homeschooling. Tailoring the education to learning styles and having lots of one-on-one attention seems to push homeschooled kids to higher academic achievement.
3rd place: Public School. They try but the results are all over the place depending on the school and the teacher. Kyle and I are both products of public school and can personally attest to a lot of time spent on things we don’t even sort of remember.

1st place: Private School. Smaller class sizes and a focus on extracurriculars give the kids a lot of time to spend with friends.
2nd place: Public School. Lots and lots of kids means lots of social interaction and potential for connections.
3rd place: Homeschooling. There are all sorts of options for socialization but you obviously have to seek them out. I’m concerned that, being a total introvert myself, I won’t be able to provide even half the social time that normal school would. Plus, I’m not sure how having me hover during activities (at least for the first few years) would affect their time with peers.

1st place: Homeschooling. Even if you factor in the money spent on materials, community memberships, and outside activities (all necessary for the attempts at socializing), homeschooling still comes out ahead thanks to no commuting, packaged snacks, school medicine packs, or other classroom materials…especially when we realized that we would still have most of those materials, community memberships, and outside activities anyway.
2nd place: Public School. Almost free but obviously still some costs.
3rd place: Private School. Dead last on this one. If I could put it in 4th or 5th place I would. Even with tuition assistance, we’ve figured out that private school tuition for two kids would be just a little more than a thousand dollars per month through the school year (not counting costs for commuting, lunches, extracurriculars, etc.).

And the other pros and cons…

Public School

1 /// It’s normal. That seems like a silly pro, but at the end of the day the kids will never have to explain why they went to a public school because the vast majority of children still get funneled through public school.

2 /// Baptism by fire. If Eva can learn to keep herself safe in a public school environment, she’ll probably be able to keep herself safe just about anywhere.

3 /// Neighborhood kids. Local schools have the huge advantage of building community out of the people who live on your street. That’s a big deal when it comes to keeping friends after the school year ends. (Although, is it just me or does nobody stay in the same house like they used to?)

1 /// It’s unpredictable. Because of the nature of public school, the teacher quality, school climate, and policy procedures can vary wildly from year to year. I know that the schools in our area generally have happy parents, but it’s very likely that the kids will go through at least a year or two of having pretty crummy school experiences thanks to a bad teacher or a lack of funding for materials/upkeep.

2 /// Even the great isn’t great. Our schools are pretty good, but public education has a lot of problems. Tons and tons of time is spent on classroom management and just keeping 30+ kids in line in the hopes of sneaking in some teaching. And from what I’ve heard, that Common Core stuff is just awful.

3 /// The threat is real. I’ve already touched on this above, but if Eva’s allergies don’t fade at all she will be in very real danger at any public school, even if they have nut-free areas or procedures in place. The reality is that people who eat/touch nuts often unknowingly put Eva in danger because she’s so sensitive, so the more people there are the more the danger increases. She’d probably be fine but the reality is that the numbers alone make it the most unsafe option.


Private School

1 /// Academically, it’s the superior choice. I’ve read lots of books, but I will never be as smart as the panel of teachers housed at the big private schools in the area. Sending the kids to private school doesn’t leave any doubt that they’ll get a good education.

2 /// The communities are diverse. If you overlook the fact that most of the private school kids are affluent (making us the diverse minority – woohoo!), there is more diversity here in private schools. Neighborhoods in Salt Lake are still pretty homogenous as you go around the city but private school pulls in the kids from all over.

3 /// The extracurriculars are pretty cool. Each private school seems to have a claim to fame with a heavy emphasis on the arts and culture. It would be fun to see the kids excel at some of these rich kid hobbies.

1 /// We can’t afford it. We’ve crunched numbers and bent backwards and at the end of the day we could make it work if I worked more hours and Kyle worked more hours and we both sold blood. Exaggerations aside, the only way to afford private school is to move to a lower income area of the city and really tighten up on our travel budget and other extras. We could do it but everything would have to be about school because we wouldn’t have the money to do anything else. That’s disheartening. (Oh, and adding a third or fourth tuition bill if our family gets any bigger? Then I won’t be kidding about selling blood.)

2 /// Affluence can be weird. Because private school kids tend to have money, there is a bit of an assumption about what parents can just pick up the tab for. As a kid who grew up rich, I remember being shocked (SHOCKED) when I found out my best friend didn’t eat out with her family because she was one of six kids. My parents and I ate out about three times a week, so I honestly thought of her parents as terrible people for a long time. I don’t know that I want the kids to grow up skewed in that direction.

3 /// Uniforms. Ok, this is silly and this probably goes on other people’s pro lists, but I hate school uniforms and all the private schools in the area use them. I love clothes and using clothes as personal expression. Granted, the kids could come home and immediately put something else on, but I still have to buy/wash school uniforms. Blahhhhhh. Uniforms are only fun when they are worn ironically.



1 ///  Safety isn’t as much of an issue and Kyle and I sleep better for the next decade. It’s hard to put that out there as a pro because I feel like it makes us sound controlling, but at the end of the day I have to remember that Eva is actually disabled. Yes, her allergies are common and yes she could go to public school and just be careful, but her sensitivities are bad enough that they do restrict her from being able to do things normally. People keep giving us a hard time about putting her in a bubble, but in a very real way she might be a bubble kid until she’s older whether we like it or not.

2 /// Family time. I like being with my kids. Kyle likes being with his kids. We all like being together. If we homeschool, we have no calendars or morning bells or attendance records to fight with when we plan our time together. Plus, I get to see them all the time. That sounds like a lot of fun, especially when I think about the days when I’ll be boxing up the ABC blocks and the xylophones because our time for having littles is over.

3 /// Curriculum control. It would be nice to be able to tailor lessons and activities to how my kids like to learn. It would also be fun to mix in things that I think would be good for them to know but which wouldn’t be in normal school curriculum, like html coding and early personal finance.

1 /// Family time. Yes, this was on the pro list but it tops out the cons list as well. Holy tons of family time. It’s a good thing we all like each other because KIDS EVERYWHERE ALL THE TIME ALWAYS FOREVER. They are going to get sick of my face/voice/harping so fast…

2 /// If I suck, nobody will know. I might be awful at homeschooling and the kids might start getting really weird, but it’s not regulated so nobody will tell me. We’ll just keep going down the rabbit hole of sucking at life until they get to college and they don’t understand biology or geometry or how to talk to people at parties.

3 /// It feels like defeat. I think homeschooling actually looks really awesome and could be an amazing thing for us, but we’re in a weird place because now the reason would always be that Eva is too broken for regular school since we wouldn’t have considered it otherwise. Agreeing to homeschooling feels like I’m saying I’m not willing to fight the good fight for Eva at the public schools or sell my platelets to keep the kids at the private school. I also feel like it makes me look lazy…particularly irritating because of how much work it will entail…


I think homeschooling is winning. I think. Actually, I don’t know. We go round in circles pretty much every night. What I really don’t want is to start her at a public or private school and have her absolutely love it, only to have an incident or series of incidents that indicate that she should be homeschooled. It seems so much more mean to pull her out at that point and tell her that she’s being homeschooled because she’s disabled…a frustrating and isolating word and one I’d never have to use if I keep her out of regular school.


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  • Reply Dawn O'Keeffe

    Thoughtful article. Can you elaborate on your objections to common core?

    March 10, 2014 at 8:15 am
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      I have no first-hand objection because we haven’t experienced it, but the complaints I’ve heard about it are that the homework takes twice as long because the parents don’t understand the system and can’t help the kids. Homework seems to be a complaint that comes up a lot as soon as the kids reach second grade…not something I’d be looking forward to!

      March 10, 2014 at 9:39 am
  • Reply Evee

    I think it’s awesome that you’re giving this all so much thought and research. It sounds like home-schooling would be the best decision for you guys for now. I agree it would be weird to do public/private school then pull her back out again, but going from home school to “school” would be totally do-able. Maybe her allergies change, maybe you feel more confident in her ability to advocate for herself as she gets older, maybe you are better off financially, etc that will make “school” possible in the future. Just because you choose home schooling now doesn’t mean you’re set in stone until she’s ready for college. Things can always change. It might even be good for your kids to have both experiences; the socialization and society of “school” and the self-focus and drive of home-schooling. Good luck on making your decision!

    March 10, 2014 at 8:48 am
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      Thank you! This is my hope. Ideally, I think going from homeschooling to a few years of private school to a public high school would be the best of all worlds, but that depends a lot on all of the things you mentioned.

      March 10, 2014 at 9:40 am
  • Reply Kathryn

    We have done all three. Our daughter was in public school, then private, and now public for middle school. Our son went to private kindergarten and we’ve been homeschooling him ever since. Forget about all the “socialization” worries, those will take care of themselves. Do worry about the allergy stuff, neither the public nor the private schools are as good about it as they claim, in my experience, although the private is definitely better. However both to some degree made my daughter feel “outcast” because of things. That was difficult for her. We both work full time (I have a flex schedule, my husband doesn’t have a standard 9-5) and homeschooling works well for our son. It’s easier than we thought (particularly for the early grades), there are a ton of resources available now, and we can make it suit his interests and needs. My daughter does really well in the public middle school, but elementary was difficult. Homework starts in kindergarten and the lack of play time was something I found untenable. Homework is still bad, but there are things that make up for it by middle school. My 2 (ok, perhaps 20) cents as someone who read this post and your birth story on design mom, so knows absolutely nothing else.

    March 12, 2014 at 1:30 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      Thank you so much for your story! I do wonder about the outcast problem. I know the schools do what they can to make the kids feel included, but I hate the idea of Eva having a scarlet A for Allergy on her chest.

      March 14, 2014 at 9:29 pm
  • Reply Hope at Disneyland

    I can see why you’re torn. There’s “good” and “bad” to everything. My thing is this – aside from the allergies, you really don’t know how your kids will take to school in general, so what if you spent all this money you don’t have to send them to private school and then it turns out that they’re not even maximizing their time there? (I know smart people who just weren’t “good at school”, know what I mean?) So I think I’m with you on starting out with homeschooling in the early years and then socializing and expanding into either private or public school as they get older depending on how they feel. It would be so much easier if kids came pre-programmed with all the things they’re supposed to know and then all you’d have to do as a parent is play with them, right? 😀

    March 12, 2014 at 4:10 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      It’s so true about the private school thing. I think it would put a lot of pressure on Eva (and Calvin, eventually) to accomplish things as a way to “prove” that we were getting our money’s worth. HATE that idea.

      March 14, 2014 at 9:30 pm

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