Education Is VERY Expensive!

My mother struggled to send me to excellent schools because she wanted me to have the best education possible. I know that she borrowed money from her family to send me through my senior year of high school, which back in those days was pretty expensive at around $4,200. Had she opted to pull me from the school I had been at from fourth grade on and put me in public school during my senior year, I probably would have been really screwed up from the shift, so I am very grateful to her for what she did.

It has been 31 years since I graduated from high school. I figured the cost of an education at my alma mater had risen, but when I checked out the school website to see what tuition was these days, I got the shock of my life. Here is the current tuition schedule, not including books and other fees, for the 2014-2015 school year:

TUITION 2014-2015
Elementary School (K-6) $27,690
Secondary School (7-12) $32,690

How does anyone begin to afford such an expensive education?

For those of you who are curious about my alma mater, you can click on the link here:

Ditching Chapel

Many of you don’t know that I attended an Episcopalian school for nine years, from fourth through twelfth grade, and that part of my daily school experience included attending chapel. During chapel, we would sing hymns, recite the Lord’s Prayer (just hearing “Our Father, who art in heaven…” triggers the rest of the prayer in my well programmed brain) and listen to a daily sermon from our dean. Every year during the school’s Homecoming, we would visit St. John’s Cathedral, and though I enjoyed the beauty and majesty of the church, it was all sort of lost on me because at my core, I wasn’t an Episcopalian. Every year we observed Lent, and I agreed to give up something during that period that could be considered a vice for a child.

By the time I reached high school, I was fed up with being force fed a religion I did not practice outside of school, so I gradually began to rebel. When we were in chapel, I would refuse to sing the hymns or recite the Lord’s Prayer. By the time I was a junior, I had fallen into the occasional habit of completely ditching chapel and taking that 45 minute period to hang out in a quiet spot on campus with my best friend Diane or with my friend Shari. Though there were a couple of occasions in which we nearly got caught and spent a few tense minutes standing on toilet seats in the bathroom stalls and stifling nervous giggles, we never got caught. Diane was my best friend, soul sister, bad influence (according to her mom and mine), partner in crime and fellow bad Christian, whereas Shari was a defiant Jewish girl forced to attend a strongly Christian school. Between these two girls, I had rationalized the chapel-skipping behavior quite convincingly.

Looking back at the nine years of chapel which helped to shape me, I am actually grateful for the experience. I may not be a religious person, and I may not attend chapel or go to church, but I truly believe that the Christian environment I was exposed to gave me structure and discipline and helped me to find my way spiritually. Even when I dodged chapel, I learned a great deal about friendship. Teenagers need to challenge constraints every once in a while to help them find their own way.

Spelling Champ

Far Side SpellingI have been a excellent speller since early childhood, when I exhibited an intuitive sense of word structure. I still remember shocking my teachers during my very brief time in kindergarten (I was advanced to first grade at the age of five after a few weeks in kindergarten) by spelling the word SCISSORS correctly. Apparently my ability to spell this word was rare for my age, and from that point on, I earned the label of great speller. In the fourth grade, at the age of eight, I decided to learn the longest word in the Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, and I remember it to this day. It is a 45 letter word which is synonymous with a coal miner’s lung disease. Here is the word I memorized:


I was honestly fascinated with words and loved spelling them and investigating sentence structure as well. This continued throughout grade school, and by sixth grade, I was the kid to beat in the spelling contests my homeroom teacher Mrs. Mackenzie would conduct. The fact that I was unbeatable sparked a great deal of competitive energy in my classmates who wanted nothing more than to make me topple from my spelling perch. At the end of the school year, Mrs. Mackenzie hosted the grand finale spelling bee, which, instead of featuring candy as the grand prize, boasted a gold toned medal hanging from a red ribbon. The instant I saw the medal, a fire was lit inside me and I was determined to take the big title. On the big day, one student after another was defeated by words that proved too challenging for them to spell properly, and I stood there unfazed while they dropped out of the competition. Finally, it wound down to two of us: Martha Phelps and I stood across from each other, glaring daggers at each other. I could feel her anger seething from her, and could tell that she was out to destroy me. She was given a word, puffed out her chest, and began to spell it. F, A, C, E, I, OUS!


I almost jumped out of my skin, I was so excited. Mrs. Mackenzie turned to me. The word was mine to spell. F, A, C, E, T, I, O, U, S. Yes, I emphasized that T, rubbing it in like a smoker would rub out a cigarette on the sidewalk. It was like slow motion after that, when Mrs. Mackenzie turned to the table behind her, grabbed the medal, and handed it to me. A roar erupted as the students who had been standing around watching cheered for me.
Martha was not nearly as pleased as the others were for my victory, and made her displeasure known by punching me in the gut after we had walked from the auditorium back to the classrooms. What a sore loser and a snotty little bitch.

My classmates mentioned my talent when they scribbled in my yearbook at the end of the year. Two girls who were exceptionally poor spellers wrote “spelling medle” and “spelling metal”, which gave me a chuckle. It was a very memorable year for me and I took great pride in achieving an academic pinnacle so early in life. I think it would be fair say my hunger for competing began with spelling bees.

Skip ahead to high school, during which time I served as a living spell-check for my best friend Diane. Diane would call, and after I would say “Hello?”, I would hear a word being uttered, after which I was expected to spell it. Then I would hear, “Thanks” and the conversation would usually come to a quick end. Sometimes Diane would tell me that she had looked up the word, but her spelling was so off the mark that she couldn’t locate the word she was trying to spell. This free best friend service was something I was always happy to do, and because I made myself so readily available with my knack for spelling, this amusing little ritual continued throughout college and beyond.
To this day I am still asked by a number of good friends how to spell certain words, and I always oblige without any hesitation. It’s almost automatic for me, when a person asks me how to spell a word, to launch immediately into the spelling, as if I was in Mrs. Mackenzie’s class, standing at my desk, spelling until I was the only student standing. It’s how my brain is programmed and is better than an electronic spelling app!