Growing up in public school, I always wondered what it was like going to a private school or being home-schooled. I never disliked public school; in fact, I loved it even though school itself was the bane of my existence. In fact, I had wonderful teachers, the best school lunches (clearly before 2008), and I enjoyed the social aspect of it all. Personally, I felt prepared for college, but not because of the classes I was taught in high school. It was because I pursued knowledge on topics I loved before I went to college. Then, I majored in the subject that interested me. So what is like to go to public school? Private school? a charter school? or what about home school? We interviewed four women who experienced one of these types of schooling and had them share their experiences.

Here’s what we learned. 

First, the women we interviewed were:

  • Olivia, 25, AZ who attended a private, all-girls Catholic school

  • Ireland, 18, TX who attended a Charter School

  • Ivey, 17, FL who attended a public school

  • Caitlin, 28, TX who was home schooled 

What type of schooling did you have? Was your schooling faith-based? If so, where do you stand on faith-based schooling now?

Olivia (Private, All-Girls Catholic School): I went to a private, all girls Catholic high school after attending co-Ed Catholic elementary and middle school. I always appreciated that I was able to attend Catholic school, but I definitely became more appreciative of it when I went to a huge, non-faith based college. I completely stand for faith-based education and hope to provide my children the same opportunity.”

Ireland (Charter School): “No, but Old and New Testament courses are offered if requested.”

Ivey (Public School): My school was not faith-based, but my school did support multiple faith-based events, such as National Prayer Day, and sometimes optional school wide prayers before school. Currently our school is host to a church which uses our facilities to hold their Sunday services as well. Although I did not have faith based schooling, I definitely support it in schools with the consent of each individual student (If a student doesn’t want to participate they do not have to.)”

Caitlin Baalke (Home-school): My entire childhood, when home schooled, we used Christian curriculum mostly Abeka. I’m still a Christian to this day. I really liked having a biblical and faith-based background in my education because it was more liberating and freeing to be able to discuss how faith intersects with other aspects of life.”

Did you enjoy your schooling?

Olivia (Private, All-Girls Catholic School): “I did enjoy my schooling… I had some teachers who weren’t great, but I also had a few that were absolutely amazing.”

Ireland (Charter School): Yes!”

Ivey (Public School): “Overall, I have enjoyed my public schooling very much. Leesburg is a relatively small city where everyone knows everyone, so I pretty much was in school with the same people throughout my childhood. In comparison to the local private school, who has a class size of about 20 kids, my class size is about 300. To sum up the area around my school, Leesburg is a very low income and socio-economic with high crime. Our county actually qualifies for free lunch to all students. Regardless of these demographics, I definitely feel a sense of community and family at my school. I was and still am very involved in sports and extracurricular activities. Even though we are a Title I school, we still receive a lot of support for our education and our staff work very hard to commit to our education.”

Caitlin (Home-school): “I enjoyed being home-schooled and I somewhat enjoyed public school as well but I found it more “boring” and more about socializing and less about learning.”

Were you prepared for college?

Olivia (Private, All-Girls Catholic School):  “I felt I was very well prepared academically for college.”

Ireland (Charter School): “I go to a college prep school that offers a dual degree program. They encourage students to be active on the community college campus.”

Ivey (Public School): “I feel as though I am very prepared for college. Although my school does make the effort to prepare me for post high school, I definitely think there are areas to improve. Overall, in the state of Florida there is no class on “Adulthood”. How to write a check, file taxes, create a resume, apply for a job, are just some examples of things students probably don’t know. But, we can tell you that the Mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell! I consider myself very independent and can figure things out on my own, but I can’t say the same for 75% of the students at my school though.”

Caitlin (Home-school): “Yes. My brother who had a similar path as I did was accepted into an Ivy League school and I had no problem with getting admitted to every school I applied for.”

Describe your school experience.

Olivia (Private, All-Girls Catholic School): Overall, I’m so grateful for my school experience. No school is perfect but I truly feel my Catholic education provided an excellent foundation for my academic and spiritual life. I went to a huge college that was basically the opposite of my high school and frankly, I probably would’ve came out a different person if I didn’t have the foundation that I did.”

Ireland (Charter School): The school is less than 15 years old. I was able to help start a lot of clubs since it was established. We don’t have much funding so we don’t have any serious sports leagues but we’re working on it. I’ve been with my class since first grade. Class of 2020 will have 18 graduates. Our school is getting bigger though.”

Ivey (Public School): “Since elementary school, I qualified for gifted programs and have been in advanced and honors classes through middle and high school. I’ve taken all sorts of AP and dual enrollment classes too.. I would say overall that I had a typical schooling experience. I naturally loved going to school and challenging myself. I’ve been involved in almost all of the clubs on campus and I participate in a lot of community service projects.”

Caitlin (Home-school): “Home-school was myself and a couple of my other siblings or all 4 of us. We would take some classes together and others we would do on our own. We had some video classes. Some by mail/email/online classes. Many we picked out our textbooks with my mom. We had a couple options for like “extracurricular” classes my sister took piano and horse riding and we took painting together. I took dance and band at public school. We could choose when to take our classes, sometimes I would finish by 10AM other times I would finish my classes after my dance practice in the evening by 7PM. I could take my schooling with me on a trip or to the stables while my sister rode and got different things done. It had a lot of flexibility and was just about learning and less about testing although we had to take tests as well. I really enjoyed my education.”

Were there cliques?

Olivia (Private, All-Girls Catholic School): There were definitely cliques, especially in high school.”

Ireland (Charter School): There were definitely friend groups but classes are so small that everyone is pretty comfortable with each other.”

Ivey (Public School): “I would say that we have cliques, but not the ones that you would think of. The band ‘geeks’, the football players, the ROTC members, the “Yee Yee’ country kids, the ‘bad’ kids/dropout kids, the athletes, the AP class kids, etc. I think I fit in more along the lines of AP kid/athlete/Yee Yee, because I associate with all of these people.”

Caitlin (Home-school): “When I went to public school there were definitely clicks. Not when homeschooling.”

Did you ever experience bullying?

Olivia (Private, All-Girls Catholic School): I experienced bullying pretty much from 4th grade until my sophomore year of high school, but I had a pretty good group of friends. All of the bullying and drama calmed down during junior year.”

Ireland (Charter School): I didn’t but others have.”

Ivey (Public School): “I myself have not experienced bullying. I did however work with a Rotary organization over the summer to combat bullying in Central Florida and it has worked in my school. But, my school has a very bad problem with fighting. This week alone, my school has seen about 10 fights. It has become a real problem and our administration is working immensely to fix this problem, even if it means punishing the whole school for a select group of people’s actions.”

Caitlin (Home-school): “When I went to public school one of the four and a half years I was bullied. Yes. I experienced that.”

What was the benefit of your schooling versus other kinds of schooling?

Olivia (Private, All-Girls Catholic School): “I appreciated the rules of my school (so weird to say that!), as well as the community and traditions that my school had. It was strict but I was used to that, as I grew up in Catholic school.” “…but I loved the academics of my school and the smaller class sizes that public school usually doesn’t offer, at least where I live.”

Ireland (Charter School): “You have personal relationships with the staff and can be mentored. It’s also reading based and self paced.”

Ivey (Public School): “I think a major benefit of public schooling is being around many people who are not like yourself. I am a white, Christian, straight, right-wing, high-middle class female, yet I am a minority in my school. I think the culture at my school is very diverse and I am thankful for that.” 

Caitlin (Home-school): “I think the flexibility made it fun and easy to like work school into our everyday lives but still get stuff done. My sister and I would sometimes “binge watch” tv shows in the background while doing certain classes that took less intense concentration. We watched all of the Jane Austen movies, Anne of Green Gables, Gilmore Girls, etc… and still got our handwriting, spelling, etc… completed. We were able to attend each other’s activities and take reading or some sort of homework with us at times. So each of us still had the option to do some fun things we wouldn’t have been able to do if we were in public school, maybe private school but where we lived the private school tended to get a lot of kids kicked out of public school.”

What were the cons of your schooling versus other kinds of schooling?

Olivia (Private, All-Girls Catholic School): It was all-girls which was kind of a con, especially around prom time.”

Ireland (Charter School): “I didn’t get a normal high school experience. We don’t have football games or school dances. The social aspect is lacking.”

Ivey (Public School): “I think the main problem with my public schooling is the lack of support from parents to
support their kids. Like I stated, fighting is a major problem at my school and it truly starts at home. Most kids at my school have no guidance from their parents. This might not be as big of a problem in other types of schooling.”

Caitlin (Homeschool): “We definitely didn’t have as much socializing and still to this day I think myself and my siblings have small friend groups. Although a couple times we each attended public school and that was a sort of different experience.”

What is a stereotype of your type of schooling and what do you have to say about it?

Olivia (Private, All-Girls Catholic School): There was a stereotype that all the girls at my school were spoiled rich girls, which of course there were some, but it was a really diverse group.”

Ireland (Charter School): A lot of people think because our school runs like a private everyone is rich. A majority of my school is lower middle class and then maybe a couple high middle class families. My classmates and I all have jobs so we can help our families out.”

Ivey (Public School): “A major stereotype that I hear from private school supporters is that “I don’t want my kid around that kind of ‘riff-raff’.” In my opinion, we can’t keep our kids sheltered from the world for their whole lives. High school in particular is where kids learn about themselves on their own, they find out who they are and the world around them. As for my school, yes there are fights but this isn’t a reason to rule out public schooling all-together. Being exposed to different people and events is what will prepare me for the real world.”

Caitlin (Home-school): “A lot of people think home-school kids are weird or dumb or overly religious or under-educated and I would say all of those things are wrong. Most often from my experience kids were able to excel, to compete more intensively at sports or art or extracurricular because they had more flexibility, their education was more well-rounded and included many things that people at public school lacked. And not all home-school kids are weird and awkward. We socialized with each other or did other church, sport, team, activities etc…”

After interviewing these four women, I have concluded is that school is what you make of it. Whether or not the schooling fits the person is something learned. Parents seem to know what works best for their own children and all have been successful in their own right. 

Thank you Olivia, Ireland, Ivey, and Caitlin for taking the time to share your experiences with Future Female Leaders. 

Caroline C.
FFL Cabinet Member
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