How Do I Know If Private School Is a Good Choice?

How do you know if private school is right for your child?

It could be an option if your local public school is in a struggling area, has chronically low test scores, or there are basic safety concerns.

You should investigate non-traditional alternatives including private, charter, and even home schooling. In the state of California, for example, students can attend a charter school regardless of boundaries. It is so important to find a good fit for your child.

We have done all three, and I want to share the insights I learned along the way.

The Pro's

There are many benefits of private school. You have a sheltered environment, possible religious preferences being taught by the staff, a feeling of family, and usually more parental involvement and control. The kids are great, and the uniforms take the guesswork out of what to wear.

While they are still required to meet state standards, but they have more flexibility and creativity when it comes to curriculum implementation.

The private school may be better able to accommodate your child in the little things. It can be a wonderful place to educate your child.

The Con’s

As with anything, there are challenges too.

Schools are not set up to handle some children with special needs, whether academic or social. Their heart may be in the right place, but there are times they cannot provide instructional supports due to monetary restrictions.

Remember, most if not all, of the monies in private school are generated through tuition and fundraising. This can restrict their ability to hire extra aides, reduce class sizes, or update textbooks.

It also means that you do A LOT of fundraising in addition to paying tuition. We used to joke that tuition was just the tip of the iceberg.

If your child needs resources, such as smaller class size, one-on-one aides or tutoring, or Special Education or remediation services, the school may not be able to provide them.

The Bottom Line:

According to the psychologists on our team, here's two things to consider if you are thinking about private school:

1. The run of the mill, regular child will usually do well in private school.

2. Children who are out-of-the-box or have special needs may struggle both academically and socially. It depends on their ability to conform.

So, you need to ask yourself if your child fits more with the first or second statement.

If it's the second, then you need to observe the school during instruction time, AND during recess. Recess will tell you a lot about the dynamics of the school.

It's not an easy decision for anyone.

Our Experience

Our children began their education in private school. Our eldest daughter thrived! She did well academically and had lots of friends. She did great with the traditional model of teaching, and was able to sustain her attention during class and at mass.

Our youngest daughter had a different experience. She's my out-of-the-box child. While she did fine academically, she struggled in the classroom. The curriculum was presented in a traditional manner which entailed lots of sitting and too few opportunities for movement. There were too many kids and not enough adults. Sitting through mass was an exercise in torture!

We ended up changing to a charter school near our home. Our oldest daughter was heartbroken, and it was hard for her to make the transition.

We, as the parents, were sad to leave too. We enjoyed the close-knit, family feeling of the school.

Our youngest? Well, she blossomed at the new school. Because of the access to public monies, she was in a class-sized reduced room with lots of aides. Thier language arts program used A LOT of movement based activities. She didn't have a chance to be bored.

I feel blessed by our time in private school, and thankful that we moved them to public school.