If you’re new to Wine Country, you might be surprised to learn that our school system is sort of unconventional. Many districts allow inter- (transferring out of district) and intra-district (same district, different school) transfers.
There are several exceptional private schools, and there are many homeschooling families (and co-ops) that offer a variety of programs. We know that choosing the school for your child is a deeply personal experience based on many factors. For that reason, we wanted to offer you the perspectives of many of several of our writers on the schools they chose, and why.
Please click on any of these links to be directed to our shared perspectives on that specific school option
Shannon on why she chose a hybrid homeschool
I know it sounds awful, but half the reason we bought the house we did, was for the school district.
Our oldest child was four at the time and it was incredibly important to me that she be in a good school with great teachers and a welcoming community. Fast forward a few years, one IEP and several visits to the behavioral therapist…turns out the school I bought my way into wasn’t a great fit for my child. So in the second grade we started homeschooling. It’s still technically in her district, and it’s even part of her former school, but it’s not the vision I had before she started kindergarten. It is however, where she belongs and I’m glad we found what works for her to be happy and thriving. Our two youngest children are still too young for school but when they go, we will base where they attend on who they are. If that place is public, private or at home that’s just the way it will be.
Private Catholic School
My husband and I debated over private school versus public school for our children. I grew up with a private school education (Montessori and Catholic school) while he attended public school.
Since both of us are physicians and attended the same medical school, we agreed that neither school system was better than the other.
Ultimately, we decided to send our daughter to a private Catholic school because daily religious education is very important to us. We want our daughter to have a strong Catholic foundation and be in an environment where her faith in God will grow and flourish. I do love the small class size of private school, as well as the sense of community within the school and the church.
Everyone is extremely supportive and involved in the school, from volunteer work to fundraisers and family events. After my daughter’s first day of Kindergarten, I knew we chose the right school for her. Since it was a half-day, we went to lunch and passed by three 6th grade girls as we left the restaurant. They noticed my daughter’s uniform, so they smiled at her, introduced themselves, and told her they were excited she was a new student at their school. That openness and friendship among all ages is what I love about our school.
In-District Public School
Mandi, on why she chose a public school
Public school was pretty much chosen for us. My ex-husband and I share 50/50 custody of our son. We both work full time out of the house.
Economically, homeschooling and private school were not viable options for us. However, we do live in different school districts and we gave careful consideration as to which district was most suitable for our son. The school we were zoned for in the district we chose was in a small, community-oriented city. They had smaller class sizes, and a Boys and Girls Club on campus. Our son is now in middle school and is thriving. We couldn’t be happier with our experience in the public school system.
Parmeeta on why she chose her neighborhood school
Both my husband and I agreed we were lucky enough to be raising our kids in a good school district so why not choose public school.
We did send our eldest to a Montessori from ages two to five but that was simply because the teachers at THAT particular Montessori made us feel comfortable leaving him so young. Not all Montessori’s are the same just as not all public and private schools are the same. The school a parent or caregiver choose for their child is an individual choice and there should be no place for judgment. One is not better than the other. I personally have family and friends who have been schooled privately, publicly and at home… often how “well” a child does at school depends on the child and family itself. As long as my child is safe, happy and learning we’ve made the right choice.
Allison, on why she is choosing her neighborhood public school
As a teacher, I love the diversity found in public education.
I can weave character development lessons and lessons on tolerance into daily happenings, helping prepare my young learners to be critical, active members in their community. Though my district sets the curriculum I use to teach our state/national standards (the “things” students should learn or be progressing toward learning by the end of the school year), I still find the time to throw in my own lessons that aren’t scripted in my teacher’s manual, which is a freedom that can vary by district, as I have seen. Collaborating with other public school teachers is a rewarding experience, too, as we all bring unique backgrounds, talents, and specialties to our school sites, which are celebrated and shared.
My oldest child is currently in a Montessori preschool program through our town’s Parks and Rec Department.
With both of our strong public education backgrounds, my husband and I plan on sending our son to public school next year. This honestly hasn’t even been a conversation between us, yet rather an “it’s just what it is” unspoken agreement.
We thrived in public school, and since our son has not shown us any reason for which he himself wouldn’t thrive in a public school setting, we are proud to send him to our local neighborhood public school with his neighborhood friends, learning about the community in which he lives through his local, public school. It’s right for him, and it’s right for us.
Stacie on why she chose a public school:
My girls went to public charter schools in elementary, that they got in by lottery, and now they attend a public middle and high school.
We chose this route because I was a single mother for a long time so private school and homeschooling were not an option for me as I did not have the means or time.
My youngest is going to a different middle school than her older sister, and i can tell you that even though one was smaller, the teachers and staff engaged with me the same. When my children were having problems with curriculum, the teachers contacted me, not the other way around. My youngest struggled last year and they put her in a Bridge program and now she has A’s! I have girls, so I have seen first hand the kind of conflicts that arise among teenage girls. In our experiences, the staff, especially one person in particular at my daughter’s high school, has been nothing but supportive and helpful. All in all, the public school system has been working for us because we make it work. My girls seem to be having a good time and making friends so that makes me happy.
Public School Out of District
We chose public school for our daughter, but we chose THE public school. We ended up choosing a school outside of our assigned district, as have most of the families in our neighborhood.
Of the eleven kids on our block, only ONE goes to our assigned school. The other ten attend five different elementary schools between them. Our assigned district has a high percentage of English learners. The school has a charter status and has earned a good reputation, but I can’t help but wonder if my bright, extremely talkative daughter might get lost among the students who are learning English.
We ended up choosing a kindergarten for our daughter that has a big focus on the arts. I grew up in public school, and it is the arts programs that have stuck with me. When I look back at elementary school, I don’t remember learning math or language concepts, but I do remember specific art projects and performances.
Public school was the right decision for our family financially. But we had the ability to choose which school within the public system, which I am fully aware is not the case for many or most families. For that reason, I almost feel as if we went the private school route.
We were able to choose the school that was most in alignment with our family values. I know and acknowledge that we are extremely privileged to be in the position to make that decision. Which is why I struggle.
Aletta, on why she chose her neighborhood charter school
I always imagined my kids attending a neighborhood school. I also wanted my kids to be surrounded by peers who look like them.
As a PoC who grew up in a predominantly white city, and more especially as the only Black kid in the all-white gifted classes in my school, I didn’t want my kids to grow up feeling as alienated as I did in my hometown. My husband and I discussed the value of belongingness versus academic achievement. (And as an aside, how crappy is it that we had to discuss them as if they are meant to be mutually exclusive?)
But I recognized that even though we both grew up poor and can now afford to send our kids to a ‘better’ school, the kids would be perfectly fine academically at a public school, and we hoped they would also grow up emotionally stronger, resilient, and better world citizens from having a more “local childhood”. They would benefit from walking to school everyday, having classes with their neighbors, and feel a direct connection to their neighborhood. As parents, we chose this neighborhood to raise our children. How could we then say that the schools were not good enough for our kids?
We decided that we could use our time and energy to support and enriching environment for our kids by being involved in their lives and educations, and investing in the long-term sustainability of our community.
Sonoma County is all about staying local. Vegetables grown within a few miles, beer brewed a few blocks up, and cheese from across town. The county has built an entire industry and identity on advocating for, using, and producing products that stay here.
I want to see the same pride in our neighborhood schools as we feel for all things Sonoma County.
Julia on why she chose a public charter:
As a public school teacher myself, I never thought twice about sending my kids to a public school.
We are technically a public charter district, so we have more flexibility and an emphasis on arts and environmental education. Which means we still have an abundance of extra goodies like choir, band, ceramics, dance, drama, wood-shop, foreign languages, garden kitchen, art 3D, debate, multimedia, etc. I am amazed every day at the opportunities and experiences my kids are gaining in the public school setting. Their teachers are incredible educators, dedicated to helping each student reach their potential. I couldn’t be happier with our choice of a well-rounded education. And if you care about test scores, or use them as a measure of school success, my kids have “exceeded the standard” in both math and language arts for the last three years. I don’t care so much about the test scores, but it validates that something is working well. The biggest indicator of success for me is that my kids are happy, healthy and thriving.
Randi on why she chose a public school, then homeschool, then a public charter school 😀
Before my oldest entered kindergarten, I obsessed over where to send our girls. I’m pretty sure this was mostly driven by first-time mom angst, and my tendency to overthink every. single. option.
We finally “settled” on the excellent public school half a mile from our home. When we walked onto campus the first week, we could palpably feel the positive energy and exuberance coming off every adult and child on campus. It felt like everyone was truly glad to be there, as were we.
Gradually, our child’s demands for education and what the school could provide in 6.5 hours were on opposing ends of an ever widening chasm. A district provided homeschool program was available, one that allowed our children to attend school 40% of the time, have bi-weekly check-ins from credentialed teachers, and focus on their areas of concern. So we opted to homeschool.
And then I started this blog.
I don’t know what I imagined this would look like, working from home and homeschooling. In reality-land, I was quickly working into a grave. The girls and I were on each other’s case daily, missed assignments and late hours of make-up work started to mix with delayed business meetings. I stopped enjoying homeschool. They stopped enjoying homeschool. Our time was up.
So we found a district that covered ALL our education needs, from preschool to 8th grade (we wanted to simplify). The public charter district we found was near to us and fulfilled the goal to simplify. We love that the schools have a standard of education that includes environmental stewardship and an organizational system for raising conscientious, kind, people. For me, education is exceptionally personal. It comes down to income, time, and access as much as it does our personal desires.
I recognize that we are privileged to be able to choose education based on our personal desires. I truly stand in support of whatever a parent feels is right for their child, and believe that parental involvement is what helps each educational option excel.