By Kym Kostos
© 2014 by Kym Kostos
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
As a parent you wonder how you will pick the best school for your child to attend?
You have three choices as a parent; public, private or home schooling. Even if you are paying tuition for a school, the deciding factors are always important.
In Volume 1, I will go over the three types of schools, public, private and home school. I will break them down into sub-categories and explain each one to you and then go over the pros and cons of each type of school. Hopefully this information will help you in deciding what type of school you want to send your child to.
In Volume 2, I will go over the Four Steps in helping you decide what school is best for your child by listing the questions you should be asking and the factors that go into making that decision.
If you're determined to have someone else teach your child, then the age long debate of private school or public school will cross your mind on more than one occasion. So many factors come into play when making this decision. One of them being finances. That is, your financial situation. Then of course deciding on what is best for your child.
Some wonder how can we possibly compare two things that are so different? It’s like comparing night and day or oranges and apples. How can we compare two different things that are so obviously not held to the same standards?
I went to private Catholic school for my years of education up until the ninth grade. My first eight years were a co-ed private Catholic school, then I attended an all-girls private Catholic school, then I went on to a public co-ed high school. I've seen the differences in the amount of education that is emphasized. When it comes down to it, you get what you pay for.
It’s like buying a more expensive car. It looks better, runs better and is sharper and probably has more whistles and bells on it. But, if you go the economical way and buy a car that is not so expensive, it will still get you places where you want to go.
Well, it all depends on how you go about doing it though. There are many public schools out there that offer the same kind of education that a private school would. Take into consideration the schools that offer honors courses or advanced placement courses. A lot of public high schools offer college prep courses. It depends on how serious you and your child will be taking their education and not just “go through the system” to get it over and done with. This is your child’s future you are talking about and it should mean the world to you.
My son is in the 4th grade at a public elementary school. He is Autistic, so he is in the category of a special needs kid. Even though it is a public school they have a great special needs education for him. His class is small about 9 – 10 kids and his teacher is very hands on and cares about her students. He has had her for several years and the teachers before her were just as amazing. I am on a daily contact basis with her in my son’s progress.
Not only do I keep in contact with her on a daily basis, either through e-mail, notes in his book bag, telephone conversations or texting on my cell phone. But, I also have his IEP’s (Independent Education Program) that we have.
What is an IEP?
Every child who attends public school and is in the special education program for special needs, must have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Every IEP must be designed individually for that special needs student. It is a document that creates the opportunity for parents, teachers, related services personnel, school administrators, and the student to all work together to improve the educational results for a child with disabilities. Every IEP is the cornerstone of a quality education for every disabled child.
The general steps in determining the special education process is:
- The child is identified by either the teacher or parent as needing a special education and other related services.
- The child is then evaluated.
- The child's eligibility is then decided.
- The child is then eligible for services.
- The IEP meeting is then scheduled.
- The IEP meeting is then held and the document is written out with goals for the child. The teacher and parent work together on setting the goals and reaching them. Each teacher and parent get a copy and any other related service workers involved.
- All services are then provided for the child.
- The child's progress is then measured and reported to the parents.
- IEP is then again reviewed at the end of the year and the child is then re-evaluated to determine if goals were met and to set new goals.
Most parents have toured both kinds of schools at one time or another, or like myself, had attended both. Most people have a bias opinion because of their experience or experiences, good or bad, with either public school or private school.
The common theory of many is that private schools offer superiority in everything, therefore justifying the high tuition costs.
Then there is the argument that public schools provide more experiences in real-life or in other cases, they have advanced development in specialty programs in the science or athletics departments.
After attending both types of schools, I can see where the argument is. I was into sports a lot, even though the private school I had attended had a small sports program, there were still available sports for us girls. Soccer and volleyball were it. The boys had soccer and football.
In public school, there was soccer, tennis, volleyball, swimming, gymnastics, cheerleading, etc… The sports program was a lot stronger and there was more of a variety.
Parents will argue back and forth about the differences between public schools and private schools, but when it comes down to it, it all points to the cold hard cash.
Private schools require tuition for a student to attend and many times, it is not cheap! Whereas, public schools are not allowed to charge tuition to attend. But, they are often under funded and understaffed because of cutbacks influenced by political agendas. Public schools are funded by state, local and federal taxes.
Private schools must come up with their own funding; which usually comes from alumni, parents, tuition, private grants, fundraising and other school and community events.
According to The Private School Review, as of 2013-2014, the national average private school tuition is approximately $9,238 per year.
The private elementary school average is $8,222 per year and the private high school average is $11,824 per year.
In the next three chapters, I will go over the different types of schools, break them down, and go over the pros and cons of each.
Chapter 1 – Public School
Public schools get their funding from state, federal, and local government financing. They must admit all students who live within the borders of their district. Two relatively new types of public schools are Magnet and Charter. There are also Creative and Performing Arts Schools.
Charter Schools began popping up in the early 1990s. They are independently operated public schools started by teachers, parents, for-profit companies and community organizations. They do receive tax dollars, but the sponsoring group may also come up with private funding. However, Charter schools do not charge tuition.
Charter schools must follow all the basic curricular requirements of the state but are free from many of the regulations that apply to conventional schools. They are not subject to the scrutiny of school boards or political authorities or the government.
Charter schools are considered cutting edge and more often than not, challenge standard educational practices and sometimes specialize in particular areas, such as the arts, science or technology or even adopt a basic core-subjects approach. Some charter schools specifically target high-risk or gifted kids. Classes are usually smaller and offer more individual attention than public schools.
The United States has about 3,000 charter schools. If you would like more information on Charter schools and locating them in your area, visit the National Charter School Resource Center.
Magnet schools are free public schools that can be highly selective and highly competitive. They are better known for their special programs and high academic standards. Often times they specialize in a particular area, such as the arts or science.
Rigorous testing may be involved during a potential student’s application process that wants to attend a Magnet school. Boarding facilities may also be offered at some Magnet schools who live in other cities.
Magnet schools started in the 1970s to help integrate public school systems by giving encouragement to those children who desired to attend schools outside their own cities and neighborhoods. One of the main reasons Magnet schools were formed was to promote student diversity.
To find a Magnet school, visit magnetschools.us
Creative and Performing Arts High Schools are perfect for those students who wish to pursue a career in the theater or performing arts category. Providing excellent opportunities is the main goal of a Creative and Performing Arts school. Students can still study a core curriculum that is given by the Board of Studies, while pursuing their dreams in the arts.
Learning is accomplished in specialized environments in which creative spaces, performance areas, dance studios, sound and lighting systems and teachers who specialize in the different performing arts courses that are offered.
Creative and Performing Arts High Schools offer education programs that are artistic to help students prepare for careers in the exciting and competitive associated industries and arts.
Also, in addition to the core courses, that are given by the Board of Studies, specialization in subjects such as drama, dance, music, and visual arts are taught.
If a student wants to enroll, they need to meet special requirements. To enroll, a student needs to attend an audition of his or her specialized art they want to pursue. The school’s principal determines criteria. The principal of the school is also available to discuss all the requirements needed to attend their Creative and Performing Arts High School.
There are many public school choice programs available for free to families from having to attend their assigned schools in their neighborhood or even city. Some school districts will offer optional school choices. Also, schools are required by law to provide parents with other options when their school is failing to meet the standards that are set by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
Because of the decline in the economy, more and more parents are having to send their children to public schools. Another reason is so that they can get a head start on college tuition, which is very costly in itself.
Parents who want to find out more and get a better idea of how public schools are zoned, operated, funded and get the advantages and disadvantages of their child attending a K-12 public school, I have the information you are looking for.
Each public school has geographical boundaries that determine which school a child attends. This is done to prevent overcrowding of the public schools. The parents of each child will already know what school their child be attending by the location of where they live.
Tax revenues are what fund public schools. Our state, local and federal taxes, as well as our local governments are what keep the public schools in operation.
The state in which you live in customizes the programs and general curriculum of their public schools. This results in them following standard testing results and other statistical measures about the graduation and attendance rate that provides the state the proper information about the performance of each of their schools in their state location. If their school is not meeting the state’s minimum requirements, students are then sent to other schools to enroll in and the school is then under evaluation.
In order to teach in a public school, the teacher must be experienced in student teaching, must have a license to teach, must be state certified and of course have a college degree. Tenure is granted after they have taught a certain number of years.
Fortunately, state regulations make it hard for a public school to outright fire a teacher without provocation especially if they have a clean record and have not committed with their students or on or off campus, any gross misconduct.
According to state law, each child located in the district or sometimes called a zone, will automatically be assigned to a specific school. This is because every public school is required to educate all children.
When a parent goes to enroll their child in a public school, they must first identify which school they must enroll their child in; which is determined by the closest school they live by. This can be confirmed by visiting their school district or state education’s website.
Next is to find the period in which they can register their new student. This is done by making an appointment with the school by calling them so the parent can fill out the required enrollment paperwork.
If you are choosing to send your child to public school, there are some things you should know. There are advantages and disadvantages, pros and cons.
I have made a list for you to consider.
- School bus transportation is free.
- Your child can join after school programs.
- Programs such as choir, theater and band are offered as extra-curricular activities for your child.
- You are guaranteed that all teachers are state-certified and meet all the state requirements to teach your son or daughter.
- Children, who are possible friends of your child, will be attending school with your child.
- Public schools offer nutritional breakfast and lunches, which can be obtained for free, if requirements are met.
- The sports programs are better and have more of a selection of teams for your child to choose from.
- After school care is offered in most public school.
- If you have a child with special needs who needs to be in a special education class, those are provided.
- Children get a more “real life” education and are not as sheltered.
- Education is free.
- Very little school choices for your child as most students are required to attend their specified zoned school.
- Certain programs might be cut, such as music and sports, due to under-finding.
- Overcrowded classrooms and maximum capacity may fill the classrooms, causing large class sizes.
- A lot of emphasis on standardized testing.
- Failing students and gifted children are all blended in together and classes might be too hard or not challenging enough, causing the child to get lost in the shuffle.
- Student pack mentality in public schools might discourages A students and those who are overachievers.
- Dangers of being unsafe on the bus and on the school campus.
- Under staffing may cause students to have a teacher who isn’t very experienced or hasn’t taught very long.
- Higher risk of alcohol, drug and tobacco use being exposed to your child.
Chapter 2 – Private Schools
Private schools are governed by boards of trustees and are non-profit. In order to operate, private schools not only rely on tuition payments, but they also rely on endowments, charitable contributions, religious organizations and grants rather than church funds or taxes. Private schools may be affiliated with a religious institution but cannot receive funds or governance from them.
One-third of the elementary and secondary schools in the United States are private. Admission selection is taken from a pool of students. Private schools fall into the categories of co-ed (boys and girls) or single gender (all-girls or all-boys); day school (just attending during the day time and then going home) or boarding school (living on the campus).
In the United States, 2,000 out of 34,000 private schools are independent and out of those, almost 3/4 are members of the National Association of Independent Schools, meaning that they have been accredited by a recognized state or regional body and are in agreement to practice nondiscriminatory policies.
Church related schools are called Parochial schools and are usually owned by Catholic parishes or dioceses. But, there are also Protestant denominations and Hebrew schools that may also be termed as parochial schools.
Most of the private schools in the United States are Parochial schools. In these private schools, children are under religious instruction, are required to have daily prayer and are under obligation to attend weekly mass services. Teachers are often clergy (nun, priest, minister, deacon) or laypersons (non-clergy), who may or may not be trained educators.
Even though your child doesn't have to be a member of the church for either Protestant or Catholic, they will still be required to attend prayer services and religious instruction classes.
Another type of private school are proprietary schools that are run for profit. This is a relatively new category of private school. They do not answer to any board of trustees or elected officials, so they claim to be able to respond quickly to demands.
Many proprietary schools belong to an organization called the National Independent Private Schools Association. Their tuition is the same to that of private and nonprofit schools.
Private schools have advantages and disadvantages. Always weigh the pros and cons of sending your child to a private school to make the best decision for you and for your child.
When you are making the decision on whether or not to send you child to private school, the best way is to sit down with your child and have a conversation with them as to what they want and what their needs are.
Placing or moving your child into a new school is a big deal for them and you and they should have some kind of say in what school they will be attending. Not the final say, but at least give your child some input on something that will be making a huge difference in their future and yours.
Private School - The Pros
- Specific topics are focused on in private school.
- The classes are smaller in size.
- Can obtain better supplies and books.
- Students have access to more updated and advanced computer technology.
- Students are being challenged more in their curriculum.
- For religious families, private schools can offer religious education.
Private School - The Cons
- Cost of tuition can be high.
- No requirements for teachers to have a teaching degree as long as they know about what they are teaching.
- Subjects taught are less diverse.
- There are no special education classes or programs available for kids with special needs.
- All students must take and pass an admittance exam before being accepted.
- Religion is the basis for almost all private schools.
Private Boarding School - The Pros
- Students can build friendships that last a lifetime.
- Students can reinvent themselves even though they might have negative non-productive pre-conceived ideas of themselves from a non-private school before.
- Looks great on college and university applications.
- There is a specialized curriculum.
- Students can become more independent thinkers because they have to make a lot of decisions on their own.
Private Boarding School - The Cons
- Students will miss out on both public and family values being taught by parents.
- Students will become homesick and it might interfere with their studies.
- Parents will miss their children.
- There will always be worry on the parent's behalf if they receive a frantic phone call from their child and they can't be there to help them immediately.
- Children will have to make decisions on their own, therefore leaving more opportunity for bad decision-making choices.
As with any major decision, before sending your child off to a private school or public school, do your own homework. Look into and find out what the weaknesses and strengths are for each potential school. Ask your child what is most important to them and then ask yourself the same question.
Don't make the wrong decision and send your child to a school that you like, but your child hates and has no interests that suit them. Bad school choices will just result in amazing potential school years being thrown away. Always stay involved in your child's education, what activities they are involved in and what friends they are associating with.
Sending your child to a private school, will not necessarily automatically give them a high standing social status. Every student has some sort of struggle or another and almost all students, whether attending private or public school, have problems adjusting to a new school. Especially if you are sending your child to a private boarding school, they will need a lot of time to adjust.
Depending on what you and your child expect from their education source, should be based on where to send your child to school and what type of school to send them to. So be diligent and do your homework and search for the school that is just right for your child. In the long run, you will love yourself for it and cherish the well-adjusted little person growing up right before your very own eyes!
Chapter 3 – Home Schools
A growing number of children, 1.77 million in 2012 according to the government, are educated at home by private tutors or parents. Many have gone through online programs. There has been an 18% increase since the 2007 study was conducted.
In a most recent Federal Government study concluded that about 3.4% of the K-12 students or 1.77 million students were being home schooled in the United States as of spring 2012. The study was performed by the National Household Education Survey Program (NHES) and the results are available on the Dept of Education Website as part of the National Centers for Educational Statistics.
Some of these home-schooled students attend school on a part time basis, but most of them don’t. There are cooperatives to learn in a group setting and share resources and that parents and families can join.
Moral or religious instruction is the drive behind why a lot of parents, who choose home schooling, want to give their children, according to a recent survey conducted by National Household Education Surveys.
Other reasons are because parents are unhappy with the quality of instruction in public schools and are worried about the public school environment.
One benefit is that parents can create their own curriculum and buy educational materials that are developed for home-schoolers. All states set requirements and regulate home schools.
It’s different by each state. Some states don't even require notification that a child is being home-schooled, while others require home-schoolers to have their progress evaluated somehow and to take tests. In some states, parents who are home-schooling their children must obtain teaching credentials, use the curriculum that is pre-approved by the state they live in, or even have state officials visit the home.
Home schooling has become more and more popular every year. Kids who are home-schooled do very well on standardized tests, They are also welcomed into universities and colleges. As adults they have a good reputation for being very reliable employees and self-directed learners.
My son will be attending the fifth grade in the fall of 2014. After he is done with the fifth grade, I am going to home-school him. Since he is Autistic, I think it will be very beneficial to him. His behavior at home is in a more relaxed environment and he does better in a one on one learning environment.
At the moment his is in a special needs class with nine children. He knows his ABC’s, how to read, basic math and how to follow instructions. He also knows how to write his name. There are many other things he has learned, which will make it easier for me to teach him at home.
When his teacher sends him home with homework, he seems to be more relaxed in working on it. The school district that I am in offers a home-schooling program and his teacher has encouraged it for my son. The information for their home-schooling program is right in the school district’s website. They offer computer-based studies from home, tests, work, field trips with other home-schooled students, sports with other home-schoolers and also activities. So, if you are thinking of home-schooling your child, look into what your school district has to offer, they just might surprise you!
To help other parents who are considering home schooling, I have a list of the pros and cons. This list is based on my research while I was looking into the home schooling program for my son.
- What a better way for a child to learn than to learn when they want it, what they want and even better, for as long as they want to? Even with that, all their basic courses are still covered. Depending on their level of comprehension, maturity, ability and interest levels. Keep in mind though that some states have unnecessarily restrictive legal requirements.
- Parents who home school their children say they have an initial shock of leaving the school system, but once that shock has worn off, there is a real sense of physical freedom. Their lives no longer are a slave to a set schedule, homework, and a school calendar. They are able to plan vacations more freely, take their child to museums and parks during weekdays – which where I live, museums are free during certain weekdays on a monthly basis. Best of all, they can live their lives according to what schedule works for them.
- With all the violence in schools today and the school shootings, it’s a wonder parents are able to still trust to send their kids off to school every morning. “Oh, it won’t happen at my kid’s school.” I wonder if parents from Columbine High School, Sandy Hook Elementary School or even Cleveland Elementary School where Brenda Spencer opened fire on a playground of children from the roof of her house in San Diego. California back on January 29, 1979, I wonder if they thought their children were safe leaving the house that morning. There is a lot of emotional stress involved when you send your child off to school in the morning. Not to mention the competition amongst students, the peer pressure and bullies. Girls face more pressure and emotional stress than boys. In studies shown, self-esteem plummets in middle-school age girls. But studies of home-schooled girls have shown that self-esteem remains intact and that the girls continue to thrive. With peer pressure, fear of being teased or social class bullying, children and teens who are home-schooled can act and think the way they want, dress as they want without fear of ridicule or a need to fit in. They are exposed to the real world, where lives aren't dictated by pre-teen and teen trends.
- A lot of parents feel that their spiritual and religious beliefs are an important part of who they are and home schooling provides them the opportunity to follow their beliefs in their daily lives.
- Families become closer to one another and there is less rebellion.
- During emotionally trying times, like death, being home schooled has it’s advantages in that the whole family is together.
- You and your children are well rested and can take naps anytime you need one.
- No unnecessary busywork to fill in gaps of time.
- When your child needs a hug, you are always there for one. When your child needs some of your extra love and encouragement, you are around for that.
- Home schooling your child takes up a lot of your time. If you have other children and a spouse or significant other, they will need your attention too and sometimes, when that time comes, you are exhausted from teaching.
- You might have to give up your job or career to stay at home to home school your child. This can cause a financial burden on you and your family.
- You are with your child twenty-four hours a day with no break as if they were in a school.
- There are limited team sports opportunities.
- You might be subject to ridicule by friends, family and neighbors because you are not following the norm.
For more information on home schooling, visit the Home School Legal Defense Association.
In Volume 2, I will cover the Four Steps in which you should take to ensure you choose the right type of school for your child. There will be a series of questions to ask yourself and others to better educated yourself. See you in Volume 2!