Private Schools

Is a Private School the Right Choice for Your Child?

Parents deciding on a grade school for their child have, depending on where they live, a broad range of options for education. There’s public schools, of course, and alternative schools, charter schools, boarding schools, programs for kids who are academically gifted, schools for kids of specific religious or ethnic backgrounds ... the choices can be staggering, and the only drawback is the amount of money they cost.

Students may apply to any school, but whether they’re accepted to a popular program depends on a complicated formula that calculates a number of factors – if the child has a sibling already at the school, whether the family lives within the school’s boundaries, the child’s academic performance, whether the child would benefit from racial and ethnic diversity, and the distance from home to school.

How to Choose?

While having a number of good schools to choose from may seem terrific, it can complicate things for parents. How do you know which school is best for our child? How many can you possibly visit, and are you really getting the answers you need? Most parents look at a few schools on the Internet, visit a few schools, and then choose a school based on what other parents say about it.

Unfortunately, reputation alone isn't a good gauge of a school's quality. If a school has been going downhill, praise from parents whose students graduated a few years ago isn't going to be accurate. Conversely, a school may have improved greatly with a new administrator, but the school's reputation hasn't caught up yet. When researching private schools, look to the latest information from the U.S. Department of Education online. Two other good websites for school research are schoolmatters.com, for information on public schools, and the K-12 recommendations at greatschools.net.

The Do's and Don'ts of Choosing a Private School

Find a school that is a good fit for your child's learning style. If you're not sure of your child's aptitude, you can have them tested. But odds are you know the details of your child's study habits already – the sort of classroom atmosphere they do best in, how much homework they can handle, and their self-discipline when to comes to completing assignments.

Choose a school that complements your child's strengths and weaknesses. Some schools are strongest at increasing social skills, while others have programs that focus on the arts, science, or math. Also look at the class size – if your child does bast in a small class with lots of personalized attention, steer clear of schools with large class sizes.

Choose a school that best fits your own values. The more you can take part in the community of teachers and parents, the better the experience will be for your child.

Trust your instinct about a school. If everyone tells you that a school is great but you don't get a good feeling about it, trust your gut. And if a school feels very right for a child, pay attention to that feeling, too.

Also, don't automatically assume that a private school is better than a public school. Many school districts offer charter schools that provide a higher level of academic than many private schools. The important thing is to find the right fit – educationally and socially – for your child, whether that's at a private school or a public one.

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