School choice is one of the most important decisions you can make for your child. It can be a painful process with important effects on your child’s future.
Unfortunately, there is no formula for deciding which is the best option for your child. However, there are several considerations you’ll want to investigate before making the decision. Let’s walk through your school choice options, starting with public schools.
Public School Choice
Despite what you may hear from news accounts, several good options are available in public schools. The first consideration in choosing a public school is your school district.
Each state’s Department of Education keeps records on school assessments and demographics in their databases. However, assessment data only tells a small part of a school’s story. Before choosing a public school option, consider your child’s education needs first.
For example, does my child have a learning disability or require special education services? If the answer is yes, meet the special education teachers at the school. Take a classroom tour and ask to see the teacher’s professional credentials.
They should willingly provide you with copies. If the teachers will not meet with you, share their professional credentials, or take you on a tour, raise a red flag.
Public schools have a significant advantage over other options in addressing issues related to educating children with special needs. IDEA is the law that tells public schools how to help children with disabilities.
IDEA requires schools to provide free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. A significant amount of federal and state funding goes to public schools to implement the programs. The law does not apply to private schools, though many will follow some guidelines.
What if your child is gifted or an advanced student? Again, public schools have programs you can use if your child qualifies.
While no federal law mandates advanced or gifted education (magnet schools), most public schools have programs. Check with your state education department and local school board for details. Students will test before gaining admittance to the program.
Charter School Choice
Charter schools are hybrid public and private schools. Taxpayer dollars fund them from the local school board, but charter schools have a separate governing board.
Most charter schools have specific missions. For example, charter music and art schools cater to talented music and art students. Many charter schools have admission criteria and an application process like private schools.
If you choose a charter school, you will need to have all of your child’s assessment data.
The admission process to a charter school can be as rigorous as a private school. The competition is highly competitive. The acceptance rate depends on the number of open slots available. One other point is you can’t count on your child’s public school to send your child’s permanent record instantly to a charter school.
Public schools think charter schools unfairly compete by taking the best students and moving them to charter schools.
Private School Choice
Private schools offer different educational opportunities than public schools. A private school environment is much different than most public schools. Private schools tend to enforce student expectations more rigorously than public schools.
For example, dress codes in private schools require students to wear uniforms and conform to dress codes.
Private schools enforce conformity and structure during the school day. If your child is a non-conformist, private school will be difficult.
An example is classwork and homework. Private schools have near zero tolerance for students who don’t complete assignments. They expect students to perform at a high level – no excuse for being tardy or missing deadlines.
Unfortunately, private schools can be expensive. When I’m helping a parent sort through the options, I have heard more than once they believe they are paying for education twice. Their taxes still go to the public school system, and they pay tuition to a private school.
Second, the instruction may be similar to what a student gets in a public school.
When investigating a private school, ask how many teachers are state certified with advanced degrees. Also ask, how many teachers have credentials in the field they teach?
You will also want to know the school’s curriculum. Does it align with the entrance requirements of the universities in the state? College preparation is a key selling point in private schools. Ask them to prove it by providing you with SAT or ACT scores.
Private schools allow parents to choose a school that matches their preferred teaching style or religious beliefs. The environment has structure, and the school is not subject to the changes in the public school district.
Homeschool is the fastest-growing education model in the United States. Homeschooling was the first education model in the founding of America.
The first consideration in choosing homeschooling is who will do the teaching. Not every parent makes a good teacher.
It takes work to instruct your children. You will need extraordinary patience and time to do it right. If you get frustrated helping your child with homework, you may not be the best teaching choice.
The second consideration is how your child will do without the social interaction of other children. We learn most of our people skills early on from socializing with others. You will need to incorporate activities that include children.
Sports are an option. In some states, homeschooled children can participate in the local public school’s sports and other after-school programs.
The next consideration is what curriculum you will use. A lot of poorly written, expensive homeschool curricula does not align with university admission requirements.
Some homeschool students enroll in public school internet options as a workaround. Several excellently rated private corporations offer online and printed curricula you can use.
Always check with your state education department for approved curricula and any testing or reporting requirements you must complete. Some states have rigorous reporting requirements, whereas others have few.
Finally, consider some of the hybrid models for homeschooling. One that is gaining popularity is a homeschool pod. In a homeschool pod, a group of parents join to hire a retired teacher to instruct a small group of children.
The pod rotates to different parents’ homes. A trained professional teaches children, and they can socialize with children their age.
Every child is different and unique. The education system in the United States is changing. School choice is now better than ever. No matter which education option you choose, Learn Bright is here to help!