It’s that time of year – “back to school.” For most people this is not even a thought other than school supplies and bus pick up times. Kids go to public school, right? No, not all kids and there are good reasons why.
Types of Schools
Choosing the best type of education for your child is your job as a parent. There is never an implication (other than by society at large) your child must attend a public school. Yes, the majority of children do this, and it is a good fit for them as it was their decision. Although most probably never considered other options.
Why examine schooling options?
Public school isn’t always a good fit for every family. Public school is about educating the masses in an industrial style. I can speak to this as a parent, as a former public school teacher. You create curriculum you try to make individualized. But at the end of the day, you can only reach so many kids. There is no possible way to reach every single kid in the way you would like to in education. Your family needs to think about their educational ideas, philosophies and what your children need to be successful people.
What should you consider?
Is your child physically capable of making it through the school day with minimal amounts of resources or individualized attention? Will they be rested and not too tired? Will they be able to focus and learn and not be distracted or be suffering physically during the day?
Although public schools offer services to all children and they absolutely have to offer you accommodations, the fact of the matter is some schools simply try very hard but cannot provide what they need to. They don’t have the expertise or resources to provide what is necessary for every child’s situation. Some districts will tell you they are limited in resources and they will provide you with the means to enter another public school to obtain those resources.
There are many rules and regulations in dealing with all types of health issues in a school. It can become difficult to meet physical needs (or medication needs) of students. Because the caregiver is not present during the day, all medication and physical care is provided by a stranger. Not only a stranger but is directed through notes from physicians. It will not be administered under any circumstances without all of the red tape being taken care of. Medications cannot even travel with your child – no matter what age. They will be suspended for carrying any medication. It has to be transported by the parent and only with a note. It’s a difficult system to keep track of. Physical needs can be hard to meet for some children.
Remember, if your child cannot be physically comfortable and capable all day in a public school, it might not be a good match for your child.
Mental Capability & Learning Capabilities
Some of our children have mental illness or learning disabilities that make the public school environment nearly impossible to navigate. There are few teaching assistants out there. The ones that are, have an overload of cases and children. There are rarely enough assistants to help one-on-one with kids. Of course, the school is obligated to meet your demands, but that doesn’t mean the job will be done to allow your child to grow and learn. (And I don’t mean this personally to any TA, the system doesn’t help get the job done!) Education is about growth and learning in all aspects of life. If your child is suffering mentally or having difficulty learning due to their disability, public school might not be meeting all their needs.
Most parents (unless you have a child with special needs or you are in tune with today’s educational standards vs. 20 years ago) don’t think about the school environment. Sure, they know there are kids that are bullies and there are kids that are nice. They know now all teachers are the same, some are tougher than others. But how students learn and the education approach is very important.
Personal and childhood growth comes from learning in a way that produces a responsible thinker. Free-play and topics of interest foster true learning in children. Choice and learning through experience make children responsible and true independent thinkers.
Today’s public education environment doesn’t foster free-thinkers, it fosters test-takers. (And as always there are some who are free thinkers and test takers). Of course in life, you do have to do things you don’t want to do. You don’t always understand what the point of it all is – so in some respects, learning is still happening through testing. However, your family needs to decide how to approach this situation. How will your child learn despite the current culture in education? If your child is stuck on the test, and can’t learn because of stress and other difficulties relating to the culture, public school might not be for you either.
What are your educational options then?
Each family needs to meet the needs in their family and of the child being educated. It’s important to make family decisions.
Private School & Specialized Schools
If some of your child’s needs aren’t being met in public school private schooling and/or specialized school may be your answer. Private schools are a very similar environment to a traditional public school. However, because of the tuition-based environment, there is often more of learner-centered value. Because you are paying the school directly out of pocket, you can choose a school that meets more of your child’s needs. Each private school is different from another. It’s important to decide which is the best match that fulfills the most needs before you apply. Your child needs this school to fulfill more of their needs than the public school did in order to make this choice your best option.
Specialized schools are private, and are focused on different types of learning. For example, a school that is devoted to education and hockey. A local school exists like this. The children are focused on their sport, but they also receive a full education along with their hockey education. It’s considered private schooling with some homeschoolers. There are other specialized schools like Montessori schools. These provide a different environment for learning but bring the children to the same academic standards as other private and public schools. Other schools might be focused on life skills to help individuals learn skills to be able to live on their own with minimal assistance.
Homeschooling may fit the most needs for your family as well. If you have a parent (or you can afford to pay someone) to homeschool the children, all physical and emotional, as well as one-on-one learning requirements may be fulfilled. Not only can you focus on the individual and allow them to choose their path of learning, but you can add in other programming to fulfill social needs and more. You can add local programming offered at YMCA or other specialized homeschool programs. Many towns offer co-ops for a classroom style type of learning for a day or two a week.
Public school offers many opportunities. The days are long, and it’s a one-type of structure. However, there are a lot of resources set aside for technology, there are school sports, after-school activities, clubs and more. If your child can meet the physical and emotional demands of the day, they will enjoy the socialization and the activities public school has to offer. There are a lot of opportunities for future education for those in public school (not that others wouldn’t have the same opportunities). Many schools have a fabulous system that helps students sort through interests and likes and helps them apply to colleges and tracks their progress. If these are things that are important to your child and family they will benefit from public school.
It’s important to look at each type of school to see which type fulfills the most needs for your child. Just choosing public schools without considering all options may not be the best thing for your child or your family. Most people need to be on board with the decision and need to be willing to try the options decided. You may have to go back to a decision-making process again over the years, each year, or maybe ven after a few months. However, making an educated decision for your family is the most important thing to true growth and learning.