This summer I spent time with a neighbor, Ann Okamoto, who sent all three of her daughters to private school. The youngest graduated from an Adventist elementary school. Her girls sent their children to the same school; a couple are still in Adventist schools. None of them are Adventist. Curious, I asked her why they’ve continued to choose our school system. Here’s some of our conversation. —Kimberly Luste Maran, assistant editor
Your youngest daughter went to the Adventist school; and then you had some grandkids go there.
I’ve got three grandchildren. My oldest granddaughter went there from fourth to eighth grade. My grandson went from kindergarten to eighth grade. And the youngest has been attending from kindergarten—she will finish up the eighth grade there. We’re going to have them in two different schools next year because we want her to stay where she is, and we want our grandson to continue on to Adventist high school.
You’ve spent a lot of money over the years on Christian education, and in an Adventist school. You’re not Adventists. Why did you do that?
Our youngest daughter was in the preschool with a little boy whose mother was a friend of mine. When they got out of preschool, my daughter went to the Montessori kindergarten. We were going to keep her there, but at that time it only went up to fifth grade, and when my friend told me that she had put her son in the Adventist school, I went and checked it out. (It was the first I’d heard of it.) My husband and I thought it was a very good environment—a good environment for education, for the teachers, and for the kids she was with on a daily basis. She went there from first grade through eighth.
And well, it is a lot of money, but at this point for sure, with my grandson and youngest granddaughter, we just feel like we’re helping to buy their future. It was our idea, and so we, from the very beginning, took the responsibility. And we can’t take that back now; it would be wrong.
Did you feel that the academics were strong?
Yes. At the time when we put her in there [in the mid-1980s] I was doing day care for kids who went to public school in [our area], and she was always a year ahead of them. The books that they would bring home, say, like in third grade, she’d already had those books in second grade.
When she went to a Catholic high school, she hated it because it was such a different environment from what she had experienced at the Adventist school. She had been very happy at the Adventist school. The smaller, close-knit setting was good. There was a good mixture of the races there. That was important to me, because she is mixed . . . the whole environment was just nicer in the Adventist school . . . she’s still friends with some of her former classmates.
Another thing that I liked about the school is that the non-Adventist kids were never pressured. Never! The school encouraged them to come into the religion, but they weren’t pressured to do it.
My oldest granddaughter came out of a public school in another county that had open classroom teaching. And if you knew my granddaughter, you would know that she could not be in that kind of an environment! So my daughter put her in a Baptist school—my granddaughter lasted a week. Then we got her into the Adventist school, and she finished up four years there successfully.
I’m sure every moment wasn’t perfect. Why are you sticking with it—and what advice do you have for others?
We’re staying partly because our county doesn’t have very good schools, and the quality of the education has been better in the Adventist school. And the other part was that once my kids and [grandkids] got in there it’s like a family. The only problem we ever had when my daughter was going there was that she had pierced ears, and one teacher that she had used to take her earrings off all the time because we’d forget to take them out when she’d go to school. Beyond that, there was never any complaint with any of the teachers. . . . The combination of academics and the small school environment (and the family kind of environment) has kept us sending our kids. . . .
The only advice I’d have for parents is that once you make the commitment—once you put a child in that private school environment—you need to make the commitment that you’re going to keep them there. I don’t think it’s fair to start them off like that and then at some point pull them out. Once you put them in the private school you should make the commitment to keep them there.
This article was published July 26, 2012.