Is a private elementary education worth it? It’s a question that I hear from time to time and one that I have had to ask myself. Recently I had a chance to talk about this with a friend, Emily DeVoto, a former Bixby Trustee and parent of two Bixby alumni (Libby – a student at Brandeis University currently studying in Tanzania for the semester, and Johnny – a Freshman at Fairview HS and currently appearing in Sister Act!). Emily and I covered a lot during our time together, but the one that stuck with me is her passionate explanation as to why an investment in her children’s earliest years of education was so transformational. As Emily explained, their elementary education at Bixby built a “foundation for all of their later learning”.
Bixby teaches kids to be thinkers. Our kids have an entire educational career ahead of them that will teach them what to think and know. What they learn in their earliest years is not what or how to think, but that they are independent thinkers. Certainly kids need to learn content and skills but what helps them to successfully navigate problems they’ve never seen before is strong self-knowledge, independence, responsibility and creativity. Pat Baker, Bixby’s co-founder, and I met this past fall and she summed it up perfectly – at Bixby it is “as important that children know more about themselves each year as it is that they know more about the subject matter.” The ability to know oneself, make responsible choices and advocate for yourself are things that kids will use throughout their lives, and help them do everything else better. These things are hard to measure on a daily basis – they are evidenced in the multitude of small interactions each day and ultimately in the sense of joy, fulfillment and personal agency that they experience as adults. No doubt it takes some mix of patience and trust to believe that what we do today will reap such dividends down the road, but I know first hand that the investment is worth it.
As the cost of a higher education continues to climb and the competition for entry increases, it is natural for families to prioritize saving for college. Combine that with the fact that Boulder is one of the highest performing public school districts in the state and many families make a reasonable choice to attend public school. This is not a bad or wrong choice. Having spent the past 15 years of my professional career in public education I believe strongly in the importance and benefits of public school. My personal hope is that someday Bixby doesn’t exist because it doesn’t need to, because families can find what we offer at a public school. But at least for now, I believe that what Bixby offers is not generally available currently at our public schools. For many Bixby students, what Bixby offers is the opportunity to see themselves as powerful, intelligent and empowered thinkers. Put simply, Bixby is an investment in a child’s foundation for the future.
“I credit Bixby for instilling in me a deep love of learning at an early age. I never would have an opportunity like this without a place like Bixby to support me, and I am beyond grateful that I had such a lovely elementary school experience.”
~Katie Kowal (Bixby Class of 2005, 2018 Rhodes Scholar)
Other resources on this topic…
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