How to save money on private school fees

How to save money on private school fees

Paying for a private school education is something that many parents prioritise. They are not always high-income earners but choose to sacrifice in other areas to afford this. They may live in a smaller house or cheaper suburb, delay house improvements, holiday locally and rarely eat out. Education is important to them so they make it work.

Parents choose to send their children to private schools for a variety of reasons. Factors they consider are wanting:

  • A quality education
  • Teaching good values and morals 
  • Firm discipline
  • Higher standards
  • Committed teachers
  • Clientele of students and their families 
  • Bully free environment
  • Smaller class sizes
  • Continuity of teaching staff
  • Well-kept grounds 
  • Providing them the educational opportunities that they never had
  • Continuing traditions of sending them to the same school that they attended
  • Alumni
  • Reputation 
  • Location 
  • Boarding facilities
  • Sporting opportunities
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Interstate and international camps
  • Subject choices
  • Career options

There are simple ways that parents can save money on schooling costs, such as:

  • Purchasing second hand uniforms or getting hand me downs from friends
  • Buying fewer uniform items and washing more often
  • Buying school shoes on sale
  • Shopping around for school books

These will save cash in the short term. For families considering private schooling or looking for ways to reduce the larger financial burden, here are six tips that might help reduce your fees:

1.School card. This is accessible for low-income earners. This is not widely advertised but private schools are required to take a percentage of school card families. This creates opportunities for disadvantaged students to access high quality education that they might otherwise not be able to. Families are able to enrol their children for a fraction of the cost of the normal fee rate. This could save you tens of thousands of dollars over the schooling journey. If you think you may be eligible or would like to read more, here is some information for South Australians. 

2. Sibling discount. In most schools, the more children you have enrolled, the cheaper each subsequent child’s fees are. Often this means the fourth child (and any others) are free. This is a huge saving for large families and can be an appealing factor when considering where to send your children.  For those with multiples, this could be a handy tip because they will all be attending at once. Making use of the sibling discount will save you money but obviously having multiple children in private school will add up.

3. Paying in full. Most schools offer a discount if you pay the full years’ worth of fees upfront. This is normally 4- 5% off which equates to hundreds, if not thousands of dollars of savings. It is important to weigh this up against the interest you might save if this is kept in a mortgage offset account, or the loss of compound interest accumulated if this was invested in the stock market. One needs to consider if having the whole year paid would be a weight off your shoulder. The reduction in stress and not having bill reminders may prove to be more valuable than any financial gain in keeping it somewhere else.

4. Scholarship. Consider whether your child could apply for one. This could be academic, musical, or sporting. Most private schools offer scholarships and can be a way of getting in the door, especially into the top prestigious ones.

Before accepting a position, parents should take time to consider how suitable the location is for logistics, how the expectations of richer families might affect your child’s ability to fit in, the cost of uniforms and camps and the ability for your child to make new friendships. The child may feel stress when sitting the test and it can be difficult if you want siblings to attend but they don’t qualify for a scholarship too. 

5. Pastors discount. This is applicable for Christian schools and may be for other independent ones too. Our local school offers a 50% discount if the main income earner is a pastor at the local church. I imagine this is because typically pastors were paid lower and it helps bring students into the school from the congregation.

This is a huge saving, equating to tens of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years. It might be worth considering a career change and looking into study if you are passionate about theology and want to save cash on private school. 

6. Opt to send them later. There is no rule that says you have to send them to private school from the start. Typically families feel pressure to enrol their children when they are babies, sometimes even before conception to book a place. It is the preference of schools that children begin in ELC, Reception or Foundation.  

This means that you spend more money, students have continuity of education and are long term families, but it’s not necessary. We are sending our boys to the local, fabulous public school and they are enrolled in private for middle school. If things go south, we have the option of sending them earlier. The ball is in your court. Decide what is most important to your family and make decisions that align with those choices. 

These six tips are ways that many parents make private schooling work when on a tight budget, or free up cash for other things if money isn’t an issue. 

An alternative is to enrol your children in public school and choose instead to:

  • Pay off consumer debt (credit cards, car loans, Buy now Pay Later)
  • Pay off university debt
  • Pay off the mortgage early
  • Invest in shares
  • Buy investment properties 
  • Save or invest towards your child’s future higher education costs, car or house deposit

Take time to think about your options and talk about this with your spouse. It may be worth chatting with friends and family members who have gone before and already have children at school. Talk with those from both sides. Write a list of the pros and cons of each. In the end, only you can decide what is most important to you and will work with your family.

Remember, you can always change your mind and enrol them somewhere else if things aren’t working, it is not what you expected or if your financial situation changes.

If you have children, are you going the public or private route? What led you to this decision?

[Disclaimer: I’m not trained in finance so don’t take it from me. Feel free to grab ideas from this post but always see a professional for advice that is relevant and personal to your situation .] 

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10 easy ways to develop literacy in under fives

10 easy ways to develop literacy in under fives

As a primary school teacher, I am passionate about seeing children develop in their literacy skills in the early years. It was shocking to me how many children would arrive at school not knowing the right way to hold up a book, or how to turn pages carefully. Some struggled to pick out basic rhymes. Others lacked the ability to sit down and concentrate when being read to.

I knew I was being judgy but I didn’t understand why children were coming into the classroom so ill equipped for learning how to read. I desperately wished that more parents knew both how important early literacy was and also how much easier it would make their schooling life.

Now that I am a parent, I am aware of the reality of exhaustion and lack of time. I get that finding space to read before bed can be tricky. However, it can be done and it’s not as hard as you might think. My eldest was recognising all letters and sounds by two, reading simple books by three and by four could read most texts independently. Here are a few tips to help you develop early literacy with your child:

1. Display books everywhere.

Have some on the change table so bubs can see when he lies down. Begin with simple black and white pattern ones and gradually progress to board books, touch and feel books and then picture books. Have them in their bedroom, play room and lounge. Many stores sell low bookshelves that allow the front cover to be displayed allowing for children to browse them more easily than looking at the spine.

Have some bath books for them to read with you in the water. Look at cookbooks together and find recipes to make, especially from kids cookbooks. Browse the newspaper and look at the comics. Let them circle and cut out items from catalogues, and stick them into a scrapbook. Ask them what they would like to put on their present list. Write letters and postcards to friends and family and read the responses together. Look at real estate guides and compare the different houses that are for sale. Demonstrate that reading is important to our daily life and include them in the many different texts we come across each day to read. Provide as many opportunities as you can.

2. Regularly borrow from the library.

Let them browse the shelves and not be rushed where possible. Borrow a range of books – ones with a special theme, picture books, readers, comics, rhyming books, books with only illustrations, big books, non fiction and search and find. Make it fun by only borrowing books by authors starting with an ‘A’, and next time find the ‘B’ ones, then the ‘C’s etc. Borrow a CD and show them how to read the list of tracks on the back, and the words to the songs inside the cover.

Most libraries offer song or story time for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. This is a valuable time of fun, laughter and learning. Children learn through rhyme and repetition, and can often use puppets. They follow along with actions and clap in time. They memorise nursery rhymes and songs which helps them develop language, much of it will stay with them forever. Children have the chance to socialise with one another and how to get along. They enjoy cuddles with their big people and can sit down on the mat independently when they are ready.

Some libraries allow you to borrow toys. You can help choose some items that challenge your children and develop their literacy. There are often book packs with activities ready to go, as well as many games and resources. This saves you money and reduces what you have to store and organise yourself, while rotating items helps to keep things interesting.

3. Have books in your car for them to read.

These can be in place of electronics while they are waiting for you to finish packing the car, to read while you drive (unless they get carsick!) and to take into appointments. We use the street directory, sticker books, activity books and picture books. I keep some pens and textas handy for them to use too.

Sometimes I’ve had to resort to an iPad or phone if appointments go for too long, or to distract a toddler while I’m feeding, but it’s not my go to. I try to see it as bonus literacy time. We can read together, complete activities and practice writing. With the street directory, my preschooler likes looking for parks, the beach, road names and the compass. He finds the street he lives on and follows a path with his finger to places nearby.

4. Toy alphabet.

Have toy versions of alphabet letters they can build into words. Provide opportunities for playing with letters. These can be foam ones for the bath, magnetic ones for the fridge and even duplo style ones. You can buy cheap phonics cards that spell words or build simple three letter puzzles. Focus on the play and practice rather than correct spelling.

Children can practice forming letters in sand (in a sandpit or sensory box) or with playdough. They can use activity books and practice tracing letters I find textas and pens can be easier to use than pencils for some children. They can paint with watercolours or use crayons. The more young children have chances to play with letters, the more they will begin experimenting with reading, spelling and writing.

5. Be strategic when reading books aloud.

Leave off the last word in a sentence or line for them to fill in. Children love reading the same books over and over again, and like to master the text. Even toddlers remember familiar words and have great satisfaction filling in the blank.

Read at least one rhyming story each day. Emphasise the rhymes. Pause at the end of the line for your child to fill in the gap. Highlight the words that rhyme and point to where they are. Ask them to come up with other words that rhyme with it. Mem Fox has some wonderful suggestions in her book Reading Magic.

6. Be intentional.

Take time to read the book carefully together and notice different things. Use different character voices and point out the speech marks. Show what happens to your voice when there is an exclamation point or question mark at the end of a sentence. Demonstrate the change in volume when all capitals are used.

Point out the author and illustrators name, and ask what each person does. Read the blurb together. Talk about what a dust jacket and a spine is. Ask if it is a fiction or non fiction text. Look at the front cover and make predictions about what the book will be about. As you go along, ask what you think might happen. At the end, think about what the moral of the story might be, or why the author decided to write it.

Ask them to find different items on each page, and then give them a go (Can you point to the letterbox? Where is the yellow duckling?). Question how the character might be feeling. Make connections to everyday life by asking if they ever feel sad too. Put your finger under the words so they can follow along if they want.

7. Storytell.

This isn’t my strong suit but my boys love when I tell them stories. It can be retelling the familiar ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears.’ It could be telling them the story of how mummy and daddy met or about when they were little. It could be a made up one. It doesn’t need to be perfect! Your child will simply love snuggling up next to you, listening to your voice and imagining the story in their minds.

8. Make screen time count.

I don’t advocate much screen time but it can be a valuable teaching tool. Reading Eggs is a fabulous program to help young children learn to read. You can sign up for a 30 day free trial here and is suitable for ages 2-13.

Often teachers in the early years of school use short videos to help children remember important things. Our eldest at two learnt his letters and sounds simply by watching 2 videos every day (under 10 minutes) for a month we were on holidays. If you search for ‘phonics song’ and ‘jolly phonics’, it will come up with a few versions.

They are simple and repetitive, and very helpful for young children. These videos can also be listened to on a speaker or in the car so they aren’t watching another show. I also recommend the alphabet song, days of the week, months of the year, seasons song. Nursery rhymes are always a wonderful choice for young children too.

9. Talk with your children.

This develops their oral language skills. It’s so easy to be distracted with our phones or other technology, but our children really do need our full attention. Take an interest in what they do. Talk to them as you walk and point out things that you can see. Chat in the car and explain what the different signs are, the road rules and emergency vehicles driving past. When someone irritates me with their driving, I talk through how I’m feeling about it.

When you’re eating dinner, try to sit at the table together. This is a wonderful time to talk about what happened in the day, who they played with, ask what their favourite part was, something that was hard, and what they’re looking forward to. Cook together and chat as you work through the recipe. There are lots of small opportunities throughout the day to talk and observe, and not only will this help their oral language skills and then their written ability, it will build your relationship.

10. Model reading yourself.

Children watch what we do more than they listen to us. Keep a book or magazine on the coffee or dining table. Depending on your stage of life, read the newspaper over breakfast, or a chapter of your book with your lunch. Try to model using a paper version of a book rather than electronic so it is obvious what you are doing, even if it is purely for daylight hours.

Borrow books and magazines for yourself when you visit the library. Take them on holiday. Make a cubby and each bring some books to read as you snuggle up with blankets. Request books for your gift ideas. Browse for new ones together at op shops. Having a passion for reading yourself is one of the easiest ways to encourage your child to love reading too.

Last thoughts

In closing, there are many simple things we can do to develop literacy in young children. Try to make the most of the time that you spend with them, even if seems like monotonous driving or doing chores. Children will enjoy playing and learning with you. The more their literacy skills develop, so will their confidence. Have fun experimenting with some of these different ways and let me know how you go!