Why Make the Switch? Moving From Public to Private School


Published:

For the majority of kids across North Carolina, back to school means big yellow buses, busy hallways, noisy lunchrooms and large classes. But for other kids, the school experience is slightly different: carpool transportation, fewer students in a class and smaller school campuses. These children's families have opted out of public school, and chosen private school instead.

According to the John Locke Foundation, a North Carolina nonprofit advocacy group and research institute, 6 percent of North Carolina students attend private K-12 schools, and the number is growing. There are 700 private schools in North Carolina, serving more than 114,000 students. Mecklenburg County claims the largest number of private schools with 88, followed by Wake County with 80. Guilford County, with 38, has the third-highest number of private schools. While many kids begin their education adventure in private schools, others choose to move to from a public school setting later on for a variety of reasons.

Stability

Raleigh mom Michelle Hardy says making the switch from public to private school evolved from her children's needs. Her daughter, now a seventh-grader, started out in public school.

"She had a great public school experience," Hardy says. "My biggest frustration with the public school system was that every single year, they changed the plan. School choice, year-round, no year-round, calendar changes; we never knew where she'd be going to school the next year. It really got tiring."

Hardy would attend school board meetings every year where, she says, "beautiful plans would be laid out and then scrapped the next year." Frustrated, Hardy tried a charter school for her son's elementary years while continuing to consider other options for her older daughter. "I looked at all the possibilities and toured as many as I could," she says. "We did the lottery for charter schools, went to magnet fairs, and tried to see every possibility."

After months of searching, the Hardys turned to private schools and chose Ravenscroft in Raleigh. "Ravenscroft just felt right," she says. Ravenscroft is a big school, Hardy says, but the class sizes are small. Each class consists of about 100 kids, so Hardy says the teachers and students really get to know each other well. For her family, the switch was definitely worth it. "Our experience has been nothing short of excellent," she says.

Proximity

Kimberly Armstrong Hillegas and her family have lived in North Carolina for almost two years. "We were really excited about the public schools," the Union County mom says. "We'd heard good things about them, and moved less than 2 miles from the school we wanted so we'd be close and could get involved."

Hillegas has older kids who went through public schools, so she was prepared to send her youngest through the public education system, too. But after moving to the zone they wanted, Union County schools were redistricted.

"Instead of going to the school right down the road, our daughter would be going to a school 10 miles away, driving right past five other schools to get there," she says.

Her daughter's life had just been uprooted in their cross-country move to North Carolina, and she'd started to settle in and make friends. Now, everything was changing again. The family began considering other alternatives, and private schools ranked high on the list.

"It's a trade off," Hillegas says. "At public schools, kids experience more diversity and learn to cope with situations that aren't perfect, like kids with some behavior challenges. There are also more resources and more sports and other activities."

On the other hand, she adds, public schools have larger class sizes and testing isn't as targeted or useful as it could be.

The Hillegas family found a private school that matched their parenting philosophy and religious interests, had smaller class sizes and worked at students' paces. Plus, "there's no standardized testing so they're teaching not to the test, so the child can learn," says Hillegas.

The bonus: Hillegas says her daughter skips the long bus rides and has more time to just "be a kid."

Challenge

Hillsborough mom Elizabeth Hays started her son's education at a local public school. "It was a good school and one of his most influential teachers was his first grade teacher," she says. But while he did well academically and socially, "he just seemed a bit flat about it all," says Hays. "He just didn't seem particularly enthusiastic about learning."

When her younger daughter was school-aged, they chose differently and sent her to Duke School, a private school in Durham. She offered her son the opportunity to switch, but he was reluctant to change schools, at first.

After a few years passed, he came to her. "He asked why he couldn't go to the same school as his sister," she says. Since he was going into fourth grade, Hays felt he was old enough to be involved in the decision process, so when he said he wanted to go to Duke School, she enrolled him.

"It's a huge change. Huge change!" she says now, three years after making the switch. "He's bubbly about school, and learning and curious again about the world around him. He's so enthusiastic about his education."

How to Decide

How do you know if a private school would be right for your family? Here are some tips from private school counselors and administrators.

• Consider your child's style of learning and level of social engagement. Some kids thrive in the busy world of public school. Others might not. Knowing your child, her personality and her goals can help you make the decision. "Students care about their work and want to be around other students who care about their work," says Kim Freedman, admissions counselor at New Garden Friends School in Greensboro. If your child isn't finding what she needs, it could be time to look around.
• Evaluate missions. Most private schools specialize education and offer something different to families. Check out the schools' mission statements to see which one best fits your child. "That's the thing that makes independent schools so good for families," says Duke School Head of School Dave Michelman. "Each of us are able to offer a mission that is unique to our school. The public schools, who do unbelievably great work while very under-resourced, have a tough mission to supply education to everyone who walks through their door."
• Consider — but don't be deterred by — pricing. "People think independent schools are expensive," Michelman says. "That's true to an extent, but all of us offer robust financial aid programs so we charge based on what people can afford to pay. I'd hate for people who think it's a good choice to say, 'I can't afford it.'"
• Think about family dynamics. "The decision to attend a private school will most likely create a shift in the dynamics of the family as priorities shift and responsibilities of each family member may change," says Charlotte Preparatory School Counselor Erin Kelly. "However, the most significant impact on any child's education is their home environment." Parents should consider what additional support may be needed as they go through the transition, which may come from family, friends, school staff or other community members.
• Block out external pressures. "You have to look deep inside your own family and determine your values and priorities, and find school that aligns with that," says Ravenscroft Head of Lower School Payton Hobbs. "There is no one 'best' school out there; there is only the school that's best for your child and your family. In our competitive society, we get caught up in what is 'the best' school in the rankings. But that's not the way to approach this journey. Find the school that best meets your family's needs now as well as hopes and dreams for the future."


Kathleen M. Reilly is a writer and author living in Raleigh with her husband and sons.


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November 2018

Run Club meets every Sunday at 8 a.m. in Midtown Raleigh or Wake Forest. Stroller friendly; children invited. 

Cost: $10/run or $100/annual pass

Where:
Optimist Park Community Center/Greenways
5900 Whittier Drive
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Sponsor: FIT4MOM
Telephone: 919-348-0472
Contact Name: Missy Currin
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RJR hosts the Sirens from Savannah, Georgia, for a sanctioned junior bout, followed by an adult scrimmage. Doors open at 9:30 a.m. Allstar bout begins at 10...

Cost: $7 at the door. Free for kids 3 and younger

Where:
United Skates of America
2901 Trawick Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27604
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Sponsor: RJR
Telephone: 919-438-6066
Contact Name: Maureen Fennell
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Come for a tour and try out a Music or Creative Movement class. Any child who will be preschool age (ages 2-transitional kindergarten) for the 2019-20 school year is invited to participate in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of the Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Sponsor: Saint Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Nora Duran
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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
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Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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The Durham Art Walk Holiday Market is a festive fine arts and crafts event that kicks off the holiday season in downtown Durham. The Holiday Market invites art lovers of all ages to experience...

Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Arts Council
120 Morris Street
Durham, NC  27701
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Sponsor: Durham Arts Council
Telephone: 919-560-2720
Contact Name: Margaret DeMott
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Join NC State Parks, Recreation and Tourism students and discover how the world around you transitions from fall to winter. From meeting a live snake to creating a fall craft, participants will...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
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Visit the display table to learn about this fall tradition and make a corn husk doll to take home. All ages.

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Tour the farm, spend time with farmers who care about the environment and meet friendly animals. Tickets must be purchased online; the farm is not open for drop-ins.

Cost: $10/person

Where:
Hux Family Farm
1923 Shaw Rd.
Durham, NC  27704
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Join harpist extraordinaire Laura Byrne as she and several of her students, Kate Twiss (8th grade) and Jocelyn Bowns (10th grade), serenade audiences with beautiful...

Cost: Free

Where:
Sarah P. Duke Gardens - Kirby Horton Hall
420 Anderson St
Durham, NC  27708
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Sponsor: Mallarme Chamber Players
Telephone: 919-560-2788
Contact Name: Suzanne Rousso
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Walk back in time with a park naturalist to learn about the original Americans. Discover edible and medicinal plants. Play games like Native American children and make a fun craft. All ages with...

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd.
Apex, NC  27539
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Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Participants develop their naturalist skills and understanding of local nature. Ages 5-8 with parent. Register online. Choose course #117109.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Enjoy food, inflatables, games and prizes (for adults and kids), a silent auction and a haunted house.  Cost: $5 ($3 for kids 6 and younger) Concessions and the haunted house...

Cost: $5 ($3 for kids 6 and younger)

Where:
The School for Creative Studies
5001 Red Mill Road
Durham, NC  27704
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Sponsor: The School for Creative Studies PTSA
Telephone: 919-560-3535
Contact Name: School for Creative Studies PTSA
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The Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle presents a concert featuring UNC’s Carolina Choir. Concert highlights include Samuel Barber’s Prayers of Kierkegaard, Nino Rota’s Bassoon...

Cost: $30/adult, free for children

Where:
Carolina Theatre of Durham
309 W. Morgan St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Search for owls, salamanders and more. Equipment provided. Ages 10-13. Register online. Choose course #117111.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Young adults with developmental disabilities enjoy a book club featuring "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets."  The group meets most Sundays at 4:45 p.m.

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Come for a tour and try out a Music or Creative Movement class. Any child who will be preschool age (ages 2-transitional kindergarten) for the 2019-20 school year is invited to participate in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of the Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Sponsor: Saint Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Nora Duran
Website »

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Logs provide great habitat for many animals. Join us as we read Wendy Pfeffer's A Log's Life, explore a real log and create a log craft to take home. For ages 1-6 with accompanying adult. Meet at...

Cost: $4 per child

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
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Children with disabilities learn the basics of meal preparation, cooking and clean-up with easy-to-follow recipes. Ages 11 and older. Register online. Choose course #116723.

Cost: $19/resident, $24/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC  27513
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Children with special needs make gyros, a popular pita wrap. Ages 11 and older. Register online. Choose course #116723.

Cost: $19/resident, $24/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC  27513
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Website »

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Come for a tour and try out a Music or Creative Movement class. Any child who will be preschool age (ages 2-transitional kindergarten) for the 2019-20 school year is invited to participate in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of the Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Sponsor: Saint Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Nora Duran
Website »

More information

Learn Sarah Hale's story and make fun Thanksgiving-themed crafts. All ages with adult. Register online. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

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Ages 11 and older with special needs learn basic outdoor survival skills. Register online. Choose course #116958.

Cost: $10/resident, $13/nonresident

Where:
Bond Park
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC  27513
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Ages 6-10 enjoy art and yoga. Register online. 

Cost: $45/child

Where:
Little Guru Kids Yoga and Creative Arts
215 Glenwood Avenue
Suite A
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Little Guru Kids Yoga
Telephone: 919-720-4921
Contact Name: Jen Fisher
Website »

More information

Come for a tour and try out a Music or Creative Movement class. Any child who will be preschool age (ages 2-transitional kindergarten) for the 2019-20 school year is invited to participate in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of the Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Sponsor: Saint Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Nora Duran
Website »

More information

See Happy Dan perform magic, comedy and more.

Cost: $5/person

Where:
Renaissance Centre
405 Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Website »

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Learn about the first Thanksgiving. Play 17th-century games, learn to talk like a pilgrim and create a first Thanksgiving food collage to take home. Ages 7 and older. Registration required.

Cost: $6/child

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

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A playful elf, sent by Santa to confirm the naughty and nice list, stumbles upon the best place to find holiday cheer—the North Carolina Symphony! This family fun concert includes music from...

Cost: $28/person

Where:
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Website »

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Take part in a 5K Thanksgiving morning. Proceeds benefit the Wake County Boys & Girls Clubs. Register online. 

Cost: $15-$30

Where:
Downtown Wake Forest
, NC  27587


Website »

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Competitive or Recreational 5K at Garner's White Deer Park Thanksgiving morning.  1 Mile option also available Register at https://fsseries.com/event/turkey-day-5k/register/

Cost: $20 - $30

Where:
White Deer Park
2400 Aversboro Road
Garner, NC  27529
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Sponsor: TeddyRox Foundation
Telephone: 919-608-5658
Contact Name: Nancy Cawthon
Website »

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Come for a tour and try out a Music or Creative Movement class. Any child who will be preschool age (ages 2-transitional kindergarten) for the 2019-20 school year is invited to participate in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of the Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Sponsor: Saint Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Nora Duran
Website »

More information

Take the family to enjoy the animated movie at Marbles IMAX. Playing November 22-25 only.  See the website for show times and to purchase tickets.

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
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Ages 6-10 enjoy art and yoga. Register online. 

Cost: $45/child

Where:
Little Guru Kids Yoga and Creative Arts
215 Glenwood Avenue
Suite A
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Little Guru Kids Yoga
Telephone: 919-720-4921
Contact Name: Jen Fisher
Website »

More information

Come for a tour and try out a Music or Creative Movement class. Any child who will be preschool age (ages 2-transitional kindergarten) for the 2019-20 school year is invited to participate in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of the Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Sponsor: Saint Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Nora Duran
Website »

More information

Bring the family out for a fall wagon ride along the back roads of the park to enjoy the fall colors and the beauty of Harris Lake County Park.  Staff will interpret the natural and historical...

Cost: $1 per person

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

The original television classic comes to life! The beloved TV classic soars off the screen and onto the stage this holiday season. See favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey...

Cost: $15-$50

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-886-4591
Contact Name: Box Office
Website »

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This class is a chance for adventurous women to get together for a fun-filled workshop where we explore the basics of aerial silks. No need for a background in aerial yoga, this is a workshop...

Cost: $25

Where:
Cary Hot Yoga
952 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Sponsor: Cary Hot Yoga
Telephone: 188-858-79530
Contact Name: hoa bui
Website »

More information

Gather the family together for this fun-filled, heartwarming spectacular featuring seasonal favorites plus a sing-a-long, falling snow, and a chorus line of dancing Santas. Visit Santa...

Cost: $35-$65

Where:
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Take the family to enjoy the animated movie at Marbles IMAX. Playing November 22-25 only.  See the website for show times and to purchase tickets.

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

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A Perch, a local coworking space is pleased to announce their annual indoor/outdoor Holiday Handmade Pop-up. The market will showcase a diverse range of work by local makers including,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Perch Studios
106 S. Greensboro St.
Suite E
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Sponsor: Perch Coworking
Telephone: 919 260 5313
Contact Name: Betsey Elbogen

More information

Come for a tour and try out a Music or Creative Movement class. Any child who will be preschool age (ages 2-transitional kindergarten) for the 2019-20 school year is invited to participate in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of the Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Sponsor: Saint Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Nora Duran
Website »

More information

The beloved TV classic soars off the screen and onto the stage this holiday season. See favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster,...

Cost: $15-$50

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-886-4591
Contact Name: Box Office
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Ages 8 and older 8 learn aerial yoga poses. Great opportunity to have fun for the entire family. No prior aerial yoga experience is required.  24 Hour Pre-registration: $40 one parent+one...

Cost: $40 child+adult or $20/child $25/adult

Where:
Cary Hot Yoga
952 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Sponsor: Cary Hot Yoga
Telephone: 188-858-79530
Contact Name: hoa bui
Website »

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Celebrate the holiday season with goats, farm animals, a new hay ride and tractor ride, holiday treats and a Christmas Market. Santa will be at the farm on all weekends giving you the perfect...

Cost: $13.50/person

Where:
Spring Haven Farm
5306 Homer Ruffin Rd.
Chapel Hill , NC  27516
View map »


Sponsor: Spring Haven Farm
Telephone: 919.407.1806
Contact Name: Andrew Crihfield
Website »

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Take part in a fun and playful aerial yoga and movement class for parents and children age 5 and older. Stretch, move, play and learn aerial yoga poses. Breathing techniques will be taught to...

Cost: $35 child and adult pair, or $15/child and $25/adult

Where:
Cary Hot Yoga
952 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Sponsor: Cary Hot Yoga
Telephone: 888-587-9530
Contact Name: hoa bui
Website »

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Explore the historic heart of downtown Raleigh on a walking tour of Fayetteville Street. Tours highlight the people, places, architecture and political movements that have shaped...

Cost: Adults (18+) $10; Youth (7-17) $4; Children (6 & under) Free.

Where:
City of Raleigh Museum
220 Fayetteville St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

The beloved TV classic soars off the screen and onto the stage this holiday season. See favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster,...

Cost: $15-$50

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-886-4591
Contact Name: Box Office
Website »

More information

Gather the family together for this fun-filled, heartwarming spectacular featuring seasonal favorites plus a sing-a-long, falling snow, and a chorus line of dancing Santas. Visit Santa...

Cost: $35-$65

Where:
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Joshual Lozoff combines amazing illusions with mental feats that explore the possibilities of the human mind. All ages. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $20/person

Where:
The ArtsCenter
300-G East Main St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Sponsor: The ArtsCenter
Telephone: 919-929-2787
Contact Name: Patrick Phelps-Mckeown     
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More information

Take the family to enjoy the animated movie at Marbles IMAX. Playing November 22-25 only.  See the website for show times and to purchase tickets.

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

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