In a country with so many options to educate our children, how do we decide which one is right for our kids?
I was a public school kid all of my younger years until I was pulled out and enrolled in private school starting in 7th grade until I graduated my senior year. As an educator, I had the privilege to work in urban public school, inner city public, Montessori, Waldorf, Christian, and Private. I watched children recite from the "Shirley Method," take standardized tests, participate in student led learning, bake their own bread for lunch, debate, take online courses, and have in school teachers. I have also had the pleasure of knowing many homeschool families.
As a product of both public and private school but having been trained as a teacher (primarily in public schools), our family moved to an area we felt comfortable with putting our children in the local public schools. I was passionate about giving my children a good view of what the world looked like in way of different races, ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses, and genders so we moved to a school system which supported varied percentages of these qualities and differences. Because of this, my children have had a chance to meet new people, experience cultural differences, and have grown to appreciate differing ideas and beliefs even if they do not agree with them.
Despite these great qualities, I began to question what I wanted to do for the education of our fourth child. Was public school the right choice for her? What other options would be best for her education? I set off in a year long journey to evaluate and pray about her future. I know many families are faced with similar quests while other parents grow up knowing which direction they plan to follow. Even if you have your heart set in a certain direction, sometimes life throws a curve ball and you are faced with looking at different options. Your child could be born with special needs, you may work long hours, your family may move to an area with a poor education system, you may not live in an area with a close school at all. So what are all of our options and what are the basic facts behind each one? Here is what I have researched and learned while in the teaching field professionally and doing personal research for my own children.
1. Public School:
Public school is a viable option for many; however, the school systems can vary greatly. Some school systems are set up to be "city schools" located and limited to one city while other systems are set up in a more "county" type system and consist of many schools in differing cities located in the same county.
County school systems can be good because schools can have more of an opportunity to collaborate and share resources such as buses, funding, and food services; however, this can be a negative issue as well. Property and sales taxes in the cities of these schools tend to remain lower meaning more financially affordable housing and a more affordable price of living. Subsequently, lower taxes can mean less dollar per pupil spending and lower teacher salaries.
City school systems can also be a good option for students because they more often (but not always) have higher student scores on standardized tests than county schooled students. Studies want to correlate the higher test scores to higher dollar per pupil spending due to higher taxes imparted upon citizens through property and sales taxes. Higher taxes within the city set housing prices and the price of living higher than county systems. A negative aspect is if city school has poorly managed funds. A city with mismanaged funds can leave schools in the deficit and students with poor education due to lack of funding and inability to entice effective driven teachers. Since these schools are not in a "county" system, resource sharing is nonexistent.
All in all, public schools are free education provided by our government based upon the area you reside in. Taking a close look and researching the school district you are moving into is highly recommended since the quality of education is varied from state to state, city to county systems, and even school to school. Other free items included are bus transportation to most schools, free or reduced lunch for those who qualify, salaried teachers, and free programs to aide special needs and gifted students (where funding is provided). Children are typically introduced to a varied group of people with different ideas, giftings, personalities, socioeconomic statuses, races, cultures, and teaching styles. Education is based upon what the government is requiring/enforcing and a variety of sports can and may be offered.
2. Private Schools
Private schools are exactly what they are named: They are private. They also require fees; however, scholarships are available at some. Private schools can be very exclusive/prestigious and require students to test out for admittance; although, I have seen some school take anyone who is able to pay the fees. While these schools still adhere to government-imposed standards, they can also specialize in teaching/offering extracurricular enrichment classes such as foreign languages, Biblical theology, Music education, engineering, Math, and the list can go on. Private schools are privately funded through tuition, donation, vouchers (government funds which would have normally been spent on the child), and education savings accounts (in which the state sets aside money for students through an account).
Private schools are exempt from most federal government rules but answer to the state in order to continue to operate. Checking who private schools are accredited through is one way to read some of the standards the school is required to keep in order to maintain accreditation. Accreditation is highly recommended when enrolling a child in a private school as accreditation is accountability for the school to maintain basic standards of education.
While public schools follow by government approved textbooks, private schools can choose from a variety of curriculum. Just because a curriculum is well renowned does not mean it will work well with your child's personal learning style. Learning styles (auditory, tactile/kinesthetic, visual, solitary, social, and reading/writing) are an important factor when considering your child's education and the type of curriculum and social situations the school advocates and uses.
On a personal note: As a product of private education, accountability matters. I have experienced private schools operated with integrity and those without. I have experienced schools in which their prestige kept people on the waiting list; therefore, funds were not an issue and I have experienced schools in which desperation had them in the pocket of heavy donors. As with any school, do your due diligence and research research research.
3. Charter and Magnet Schools
Grouping these two types of schools together was done for the sake of their similarity. Both types of schools are considered to be public and do not require you to live in a particular area nor do they require tuition. While magnet schools are directly accountable to the local school district, charter schools bypass the local government and report directly to state and local boards. Charter schools are, additionally, run privately while Magnet schools operate as a traditional local school with very specific academic focuses. For more information about Magnet and Charter schools along with finding one near you, I suggest you check out this particular page to better serve some questions you may have.
For many families, homeschooling is a great choice. Many factors which influence this choice include a family's passion to school their children, medical/health problems with the parents or children, food allergies, poor local schools, no local schools (i.e. missionary families), religious views/beliefs, the choice to not vaccinate (which removes your kids ability to attend many private and public schools), bullying, the effects of negative school environments, military family travel, to focus their children on learning to love education rather than learning to memorize facts, and a whole range of other reasons. Each family's reasons to home school their children are vast and different and unique to each family. Homeschooling is an educational option and lifestyle choice.
Homeschool can be a positive direction for families when children are taught well. It takes perseverance, determination, love, and a willingness to meet your child on his/her level no matter what type of curriculum is used. There is a ton of resources and curriculums out there for homeschool parents; however, not all of these curriculums will fit every child. Homeschool is a tailored approach to learning which is what is so beautiful about the thought. Parents are able to identify which way their children learn best and can teach their children in that way. For those who are not as well versed in curriculum nor are they comfortable with the homeschool idea just yet; the virtual classroom K12 online is a great avenue. K12 essentially enrolls your child in the local public school system and allows your child to be schooled under the public school curriculum in the privacy of your home.
Other curriculums parents look at include Abeka, Gather Round Homeschool, Saxon Math, and a host of other resources and curricula (which can be found here). If you are considering homeschool as an option for your child, I highly recommend Tricia Goyer and Kristi Clover's book, Homeschool Basics, in which they cover everything from the "why" to the "how to get started."
Some things to consider when deciding if homeschool is the best option for your family: It takes one parent at home, curriculum costs can be pricy (depending on the type), and you will have your children with you at all times.
Educational practice from this type of school is child centered and theorizes the child as a natural born learner with initiatives to learn and explore their world. Activities are set up to encourage growth and learning and children have free choice within limits to choose activities based upon their interests and capabilities. Students work at their own pace and are neither encouraged or discouraged to work in groups. Teachers aide in assessment but encourage self-assessment and self-correction.
Some things to consider when placing your child in a Montessori school are that this is a form of a private school and tuition must be paid. Additionally, not all Montessori schools offer education through twelfth grade. Just like other schools, no two schools are alike. You must do your due diligence to check out the school would like your child to attend. I had the privilege of observing two schools in my area and while one fostered creativity within its child-initiated learning, the other did not allow children's creativity to flow into the math and science activities giving a more restrictive environment. Additionally, one Montessori school offered education until 8th grade while the other school ended at the preschool years. These are all a part of the process of selecting the type of education you would prefer your child to have.
To find a Montessori school near you or to learn more about this educational option, check out the American Montessori Website.
6. Waldorf Education:
This choice for education is one less sought than most. Much like a private school, Waldorf schools require tuition. Students have one teacher through all grade levels and use a variety of techniques in order to learn a concept. Waldorf education emphasizes students learning from the natural world and viewing each thing they learn as interconnected with one and all things around them.
Waldorf education focuses on the arts and incorporation of body movement, music, writing, and acting in order for information to cross the right side of the brain to the left and from the frontal cortex to the back. To learn more about this educational practice, simply checkout the association of Waldorf schools here.
Choosing the type of education your child receives can be an undertaking. It takes prayer, a look at your time, a look at your finances, research, and a great deal of conversation with your spouse/the other parent of your children. Really take the time to study how your child learns. Although it is a difficult topic to think about, try to honestly see if your child has a learning disability and/or is gifted as this affects the type of school your child attends as well. Lastly, think about what the future may hold for your family. If you know you will be traveling often, would putting your child into a brick and mortar school be the best option? Is your child more driven when they are around other students? Is your child gifted and needs to be challenged at all times? There are so many factors to consider when choosing how your child will be educated.
I will not pretend it is a simple process. My husband and I have prayed and conversed about each child when they were entering school. We have; additionally, prayed and talked about each individual year. Was the school we chose the best fit for our child? How are they doing socially, emotionally, educationally, physically, mentally, spiritually?
I pray as you evaluate the year you are in, evaluate the upcoming year, or even look ahead at your prospective children. I pray you make the choice that best fits your child, you, and your family. I pray you do this with prayer, reflection, research, and advice. I would love to hear what choices you made for your child, why, and how you arrived at that conclusion. Simply login as a member to comment and subscribe here to get the latest updates and messages from yours truly! I look forward to reading your educational choices! Happy hunting!