by Carol Chandler-Wood
I have three children and am considering sending each of them to private school next year. Do you have suggestions for me regarding how I can make sure I make the best decision for my children?
Dear Mrs. D.,
First, let me begin by suggesting that you look at each of your children and his or her academics separate from one another. It is possible that you will make a different school decision for each of your children based on their different levels of academic ability, varying personalities, and style of learning. I have known families who have had one child in a public school, one in a private school and one who was home-schooled. Before making a school decision, you will want to do much research to insure you have made an informed decision and the best one for each child.
Both private and public schools focus on the education of its students. Their curriculums will vary, however, in their course offerings and levels of courses. Many students want the option to take Advanced Placement courses while I high school so this should factor in to your decision. There are differences, however, in how public and private schools operate. For example, because public schools must be equipped to teach all students in the community, they must have in place ways to teach all the students in the district. This means a public school typically has programs for accelerated students, average students and students with learning differences. Some, but not all private schools, have programs in place for students on both ends of the learning spectrum. Public schools are generally staffed with teachers who have degrees and experience in special education, whereas private schools sometimes are not. So, if one of your children has difficulty learning, you will want to make sure the school he attends is equipped to teach him according to his learning style.
Regarding private schools, they will have varying missions. For example, there are private schools that have a mission of faith, some are international schools, and there are same-sex schools. If you decide on a private school for one or all of your children, you will want to select a school that best reflects the values and goals you have established for them.
Private and public schools often have different environments. Some have a large student body with larger class sizes and some are small with a low teacher/student ratio. If any of your children are shy, lacking in self esteem, or has “follower” tendencies, a small school may be good fit. Often, a small school provides more opportunity for a student to feel special and be recognized and to participate on an athletic team if they desire. In a large school a student can sometimes feel lost and be unable to be selected for a sports team because of the stiff competition. If any of your children are outgoing, confident, or a natural leader, they may thrive in a large school.
Lastly, the cost of tuition may be a key factor in your school decision. Whereas your tax dollars pay for public education, private school tuition can range from $3500 per year to a little under $20,000. As you proceed in making a school decision for each of your children, narrow your choice to 3 – 5 schools for each, which may include both private and public, visit those schools during their open houses, and talk to parents and students who attend each school in order to feel confident you have made the best choice for each of your children.